Broncos name two debutants to face Sharks
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has shown after one loss that he is prepared to gamble with the make-up of his squad in order to achieve immediate results, naming NRL debutants Joe Ofahengaue and Kodi Nikorima to take on Cronulla in Sydney on Friday night.
With the suspension of James Gavet and a calf injury to prop forward Mitchell Dodds, Bennett has named a new-look bench for Round 2 with incumbent Kangaroo Sam Thaiday being dropped to the interchange in the wake of the 36-6 loss to the Rabbitohs last Thursday with Jarrod Wallace also coming into the 17.
While Nikorima has been on the fringe of first grade selection for the past 12 months, the elevation of Ofahengaue goes against what the 20-year-old front-rower had been told by Bennett during the pre-season.
In his first year out of the under-20s competition Ofahengaue was expected to spend the majority of 2015 playing for Ipswich in the Intrust Super Cup but Bennett has opted to fast-track his rugby league education by naming him in the squad this week.
Ofahnegaue has impressed many senior figures at the Broncos with his ability to get through a mountain of work and prop forward Josh McGuire has no doubt he will be up to the task when he takes the field on Friday.
"I'm sure he'll handle first grade just fine. He's a big, strong thing – he makes the rest of us look pretty small – so I'm sure he can handle it fine," McGuire said.
"He's got a big engine the big fella and he's impressed me a lot the last couple of years when he's been training with first grade so it was just a matter of time.
"He's been playing great in the 20s and played over in England so I'm sure when Wayne decides he's ready he'll get his opportunity.
"We've got some really classy forwards coming through the club which is a good sign. We've got guys like Frank Molo, Jarrod Wallace, Joe Ofahengaue who are all guys coming up in the ranks which is a good sign for the club. You can never have too many good front-rowers at a club."
After impressing in a 60-minute hit-out against the Rabbitohs Queensland back-rower Matt Gillett has been brought back into the starting team at the expense of Thaiday.
Despite a limited pre-season courtesy of off-season shoulder surgery Gillett said he'll be ready for whatever the aggressive Sharks forward pack throws at him on Friday.
"I was expecting that (to be named on the bench for Round 1). Coming off shoulder surgery and not having any trials, that was my first hit-out so it was good to get out there and get some game time," Gillett said.
"I felt pretty good fitness wise so I'd be happy to get back into that starting side and that's a goal of mine now.
"Our forwards did a great job for that first 25 [minutes] of that game and obviously we let ourselves down with that 10-minute period after half-time where they put a few tries on us and that came down to the boys off the bench.
"They (the Sharks) have got a pretty big forward pack with the Fifita brothers and [Paul] Gallen and they like to offload too so we've got a hard job ahead of us on Friday night."