Whitchurch on trial for Broncos vacancy
The lure of a second straight World Club Series appearance is motivating Broncos utility Aaron Whitchurch to put a big pre-season into practice in Brisbane's opening hit-out of the season against the Cowboys on Saturday night.
Although both teams will be well represented at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines this coming weekend the grand final combatants will have plenty of stars on show in Bundaberg in what will be Brisbane's major trial before leaving for England.
The Cowboys also have a trial scheduled against the Townsville Blackhawks on Thursday, February 11 but given they fly out for the World Club Challenge showdown with Leeds in the days following it is unlikely many senior players will be risked.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett is expected to take a squad of 18 players for the clash with Wigan on February 20 and having been part of the team that triumphed 14-12 12 months ago Whitchurch is desperate to put a strong case forward.
As Jack Reed recovers from shoulder surgery and Lachlan Maranta nurses a broken wrist there are some positions in the outside backs that need filling and the 23-year-old wants to secure his ticket to England with a big showing against the Cowboys.
"I'm happy with wherever he plays me but obviously it would be good to be able to fill that role while they're gone and have a good crack," Whitchurch told NRL.com.
"I'll just be working on my game as usual, just doing my best, staying confident and trying to be the best footy player I can be really.
"I'm going to be working hard all year anyway but definitely to get a starting spot at the start of the year and to be able to make an impact straight away would be awesome, to be able to cement a spot.
"It makes pre-season a bit easier when you can see that bit of a reward at the end and it helps you train a bit harder and to try and play well in the trial before that so you can get into the team for that good trip."
Having played against Wigan Whitchurch was something of a surprise inclusion for the team in Round 1 against the Rabbitohs on the bench but was one of the players sacrificed following the team's 36-6 loss.
His only other appearance in 2015 came as part of the 'Baby Broncos' side that defeated Newcastle 31-18 in Round 11 and whether it's in the centres or in the back row Whitchurch said he is determined to earn his place in the 17 on a more regular basis.
"He pretty much just said that it was the way it goes and to keep working hard playing Q Cup and hopefully I'd get another shot," Whitchurch said of being dropped by Bennett after Round 1.
"At training he has high expectations of us and just the character that he is, you want to train hard and work hard.
"He gives you confidence. He holds you accountable and just his character in general and his presence gives you confidence.
"I've mostly been training in the centres so I think Wayne just wants to keep me training there at the moment. You work on more skills in the centres rather than in the forwards he reckons.
"I'm pretty happy just to play wherever really. I'm not really worried whether I play centre or second row or if he chucks me in the middle, I'm happy just playing footy."