Fro Bros Brisbane's perfect partners: Petero
Premiership-winning prop Petero Civoniceva has credited Brisbane's 'Fro Bros' Sam Thaiday and Adam Blair for providing the forward starch that has the Broncos on the verge of a grand final appearance next Sunday.
The formidable forward pack of the Roosters is all that stands between Brisbane and a chance to snare a first Telstra Premiership title since 2006 but Civoniceva believes the emerging partnership between Thaiday and Blair up front is a major trump card for the home side.
The two internationals have spent the majority of their careers playing in the back row but season-ending injuries to James Gavet and Josh McGuire left coach Wayne Bennett with few options other than to turn to two of his most senior forwards to undertake the game's most thankless tasks.
Since becoming the team's permanent bookends in Round 18 the Broncos have won seven of their past 10 games and Civoniceva said their ability to work as a unit has contributed greatly to the team's success.
Whether with Shane Webcke at the Broncos or Steve Price for Queensland, Civoniceva has represented half of some of the modern game's most enduring front-row partnerships and likes what he sees from Thaiday and Blair.
"They do a lot of the nitty-gritty and the one-per centers that don't get highlighted but for anyone that is a player or a coach you see those qualities come out in games," Civoniceva told NRL.com.
"They're qualities like continually competing through sets and even under fatigue and that's what's been really impressive about 'Blairy'.
"Sam has always had that in his game but I think the two of them bringing that together has been a real cornerstone for why the Broncs have been so successful in the back-end of this season.
"That's a real key to a good front-row partnership, that understanding and willingness to be relentless throughout that 80 minutes. To be there for each other and that means sharing that workload, backing each other up and pushing each other to be better.
"If I look back on all the great front-row partnerships that I've been part of that's certainly something that has really stood out.
"You can see that there is an element of that happening at the Broncos here at the moment."
As match-winners such as Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford are feted with oversized man-of-the-match cheques for their spectacular skills, the likes of Thaiday, Blair and Corey Parker receive their praise from those closest to the camp, particularly coach Wayne Bennett.
Bennett's late play for Blair in the pre-season was seen as a gamble by those who had criticised the Kiwi international's contribution in three years at the Wests Tigers but Bennett knew he was the hardened professional all premiership teams need.
"They are different to Petero and 'Webby' but they just keep getting the job done," Bennett said.
"That's all you need. You mightn't always have the best tools but you've still got to get the job done and to their credit they've done that.
"Whatever kind of challenges that have been in front of them here they've stood up and met it.
"We lost Josh McGuire some time ago and we needed a big guy like him but someone else has put his hand up and we're still getting the job done."
While some may have had their doubts, Civoniceva knew from games against Blair at club and international level that there was very little element of risk in Bennett bringing him to the Broncos.
"I played against 'Blairy' plenty of times when he was at the Storm and he is one tough hombre so I thought it was a great signing," said Civoniceva, who won premierships with Brisbane in 1998, 2000 and 2006.
"For whatever reason the Wests Tigers probably wasn't the best fit for him but it's just so great to see him thrive in this environment and under Wayne's guidance has been a real key to that.
"You look at the loss of Josh McGuire and I think most would have said that would have been a real killer blow for the Broncos but the way the pack has responded – especially those two and Corey Parker – they've led from the front."