McCullough's timely return for Broncos
The Brisbane Broncos have been bolstered by the return of injured hooker Andrew McCullough for their Friday night blockbuster against the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium.
The 26-year-old broke his thumb in Brisbane's 19-18 Round 12 loss to the Wests Tigers and the Broncos have failed to come up with a successful plan in his absence, with Wayne Bennett's men struggling without the ever-reliable rake's defence and leadership.
The Broncos have lost two of the three matches since McCullough suffered his injury, with coach Bennett at one stage moving Australian prop Josh McGuire to hooker in a bid to add some much needed physicality to Brisbane's middle third.
That move ultimately failed, and although stand-in hooker Travis Waddell has been solid in the position, the Broncos will be much better off with McCullough starting.
McCullough says he is feeling fresh – casting off any doubts about his lack of match fitness.
"It's very good to be back. I've had a good result with my hand and I'm looking forward to being back out there," McCullough said.
"I had a bit of a throw around with the ball on Tuesday, and I'll train Wednesday and Thursday to try and get some confidence back into it.
"It's come along very well because I've managed to stay fit. Obviously it was only my hand so I've done plenty of running over the past month and I've worked on my game management a lot over the break.
"Tackling will be the hard part, but I should be fine come Friday. I'm feeling very confident in myself after doing a bit of ball work of late."
The Broncos will need McCullough to play confidently if they are to turn their form around and win only their second game in six matches.
Brisbane face the second-placed Storm, a team they haven't beaten at Suncorp Stadium since 2009, and a loss will mean the Broncos could slip to as low as seventh.
Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford is hoping to rediscover the form that saw him score eight tries in seven games to begin the season, and says McCullough's calming influence will be a huge factor throughout the rest of Brisbane's 2016 campaign.
"He's been really good for us so we needed him back as soon as possible," Milford said.
"Over the past 18 months he's been such an important part of the side.
"He helps a lot of our forwards and directs us around the park.
"'Macca' will be a huge part of our year moving forward."