Bronco Ben Hunt out of Storm clash
The Broncos' minor premiership aspirations have been dealt a significant blow with star halfback Ben Hunt ruled out of Thursday night's game against the Storm with a cork that is expected to sideline him for just the one game.
Titans-bound under-20s half Ashley Taylor will oppose Cooper Cronk in his NRL debut with the Broncos also resting winger Jordan Kahu as he battles a shoulder injury.
The match-up between Hunt and Cronk was expected to be one of the key positional battles of the blockbuster opening to Round 26 but coach Wayne Bennett confirmed the 25-year-old would not be fit to take his place in the team.
"He picked up a cork in a training drill on Monday and he hasn't recovered well enough from it so he won't be playing," said Bennett.
The withdrawal of Hunt opens the door for Junior Kangaroos halfback Taylor to make his maiden appearance in the top grade with Bennett confident the 20-year-old can handle the occasion.
"It's a great opportunity for him," Bennett said.
"He's got all the skill sets so we've just got to get him out there and play him now and see what he does with it all.
"He's a regular halfback, that's where he's played all his football career so it's just what he does in under-20s will be good enough for us.
"He's been great in the training drills and he's spent all season with us but this is his first NRL game."
Having spent most of the season in the Holden Cup competition, Taylor did play a handful of games for Souths Logan Magpies in the Intrust Super Cup mid-year and acquitted himself well in open competition.
It was announced ahead of the under-20s Origin game in July that he had been given permission to seek a regular NRL opportunity elsewhere despite being under contract to the Broncos, the Titans edging out Manly in signing him to a two-year deal.
Having returned to the under-20s ranks Taylor had not been seen at Broncos training in recent weeks but was back amongst the senior squad on Monday, working on passing drills with halves partner Anthony Milford.