Berrell the answer for battered Broncos
Junior Kangaroos hooker Jayden Berrell has been handed the responsibility of guiding a battered Broncos Holden Cup team through the finals series after the team lost its most influential player last weekend.
It is an all-Queensland double-header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night with the Cowboys' shock loss to the Titans last weekend placing them second on the minor premiership tally and giving them a match-up with third-placed Brisbane.
The leading point-scorer in the Holden Cup this season with 203 points and second for try assists with 27 from 18 games, Ashley Taylor's season came to an end 29 minutes into his first grade debut for the Broncos last Thursday night against the Storm when he suffered compound fractures to two fingers whilst attempting to make a tackle.
Taylor joins Roosters-bound utility Jayden Nikorima on the long-term injured list while prop forward Joe Ofahengaue has again been named in the first grade team to face the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
Taylor himself still doesn't know exactly how the injury occurred and for Broncos under-20s coach Craig Hodges it represented the latest blow to his playing stocks.
"We've lost a fair bit of quality and Ash is another one of them so it makes it a lot harder but not impossible," Hodges told NRL.com.
"I'm not trying to downplay it, we're in a tough situation at the moment so we need tough people to stand up and get the job done for us. And it won't be easy but that also adds to the excitement of it."
Having played seven games this season – including last week's big loss to the Storm – Logan Spaander has been named at halfback for the Broncos but it is the No.9 who Hodges says will need to have the greatest influence.
A Queensland representative in under-16s, under-18s and under-20s, Berrell will join the Broncos' full-time NRL squad in the pre-season and has all the qualities you want from a hooker according to his coach.
"Berrell's been really good and he needs to be," said Hodges of the Broncos hooker with 16 line breaks and 16 try assists this season. "He's our most experienced player and every play-the-ball starts with him at dummy-half.
"Although he's been exceptional the last month, he needs to step up again and do a bit more.
"Control is the key word that I'd use with him. He's got really good intensity, he's got really good intent with what he does and got good control around the ruck.
"Missing players of the quality of Nikorima and Taylor to help out there it's important he take more ownership there and he's just very clean.
"There are very few errors around him and he just takes the right options at the right times. He knows when to speed it up and when to slow it down and he's just got wonderful control at nine."
The Broncos have won both meetings with the Cowboys so far this season and Hodges doesn't believe there will be any ill effects from their 48-12 loss to the Storm last week, a team they had beaten 74-6 back in June.
"I'm not concerned about that at all. We had a lot going on and within the camp we knew exactly where we were with that so that's not an issue for us at all," Hodges said of the 104-point turnaround.
"You just notice instantly at the end of 26 weeks there is an extra spring in the step at training and everyone is a bit more excited.
"The bumps and bruises don't hurt as much and all the work we've done right back from November is all for these next four weeks."