Broncos forwards vow to help halves
There were fans issuing APBs for the whereabouts of star Broncos recruit Anthony Milford midway through the season-opener against the Rabbitohs last week but two of Brisbane's international forwards insist it is their job to make him look good.
Although his forwards did a good job in the early stages against the premiership-winning South Sydney pack, Milford struggled to inject himself into the game in his first outing for his new club at five-eighth.
Halfback Ben Hunt was also well down on the form that carried him to a Test jersey and within a whisker of the Dally M Medal in 2014, a lot of which can be attributed to the fact that South Sydney ran for close to 600 metres more than the Broncos across the 80 minutes.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has completely reshuffled his bench for Friday night's clash with the Sharks in Sydney in order to sustain the intensity of the opening exchanges throughout the entire game and starting back-rower Matt Gillett said much of the influence of the halves falls on the shoulders of the forwards.
"Obviously our forwards have got to be doing a great job to give our backs the ball and give them some room to move, especially with Anthony Milford and his footwork that he likes to do," said Gillett.
"Benny Hunt is a great runner of the ball as well so we've got to get our forwards going forward first and they can play off the back of that."
Although he was pleased with how his fellow forwards handled the early South Sydney onslaught, Josh McGuire said it is crucial they match that effort in the back-end of the half in order to create attacking opportunities.
"I thought there was a lot of room for improvement for our forwards in the middle," McGuire said. "I thought we competed well for probably the first 25 but we probably let them get away at the end of the first half and the start of the second half.
"If we roll our sleeves up and get going forward and get those boys a bit of time in the ruck I think you'll see a lot of good footy out of 'Milf' and 'Hunty'.
"It's Round 1 and Milfy's playing a new position and Hunty is finding his feet again but obviously if we're not doing our job those boys don't get to do what they want to do."
Although there will be nothing personal in it the match-up between Broncos discard Ben Barba and his replacement in Milford, it will make for a fascinating subplot in Friday night's clash.
While he had some experience at five-eighth in his early days at the Bulldogs, Barba wasn't shifted into the Brisbane No.6 jersey until Round 19 last year. Despite enduring a mixed start in Cronulla's loss to the Raiders, former Broncos teammates believe his transition to the halves will be successful in time.
"At the moment he's just shot for confidence. Rugby league players are based on confidence and when he plays with confidence he can do anything on the footy field," said Broncos captain and good friend Justin Hodges.
Adds Gillett: "It was pretty hard for Benny to do what he had to do up here.
"He played a bit of fullback and then got chucked into five-eighth so it's pretty hard to go from fullback to five-eighth without having any pre-season under his belt going to five-eighth.
"I'm sure as this season goes on he's only going to get better there in the five-eighth position."