Broncos burdened by injury blows
The Broncos' hopes of busting out of their Origin blues have been dealt yet another blow with confirmation that back-rower Matt Gillett will miss Saturday night's clash with the Rabbitohs with a shoulder injury.
As the team completed their captain's run in Sydney on Friday Gillett was off having scans on the injury that he sustained whilst playing for Queensland in Game Three of the Holden State of Origin series on Wednesday night.
A final decision on the make-up of the Brisbane team will be made on Saturday morning with Alex Glenn likely to move from the centres to the back row, Lachlan Maranta to come in on the wing and Joe Boyce to play his first NRL game of the season and just the second of his career off the bench.
Outstanding young prospect Marion Seve travelled with the team to Sydney as 19th man but is not expected to earn his NRL debut against the Rabbitohs.
The loss of Gillett, Kodi Nikorima (shoulder) and captain Corey Parker (suspension) places further pressure on the senior members of the Broncos to lead the team out of the mire that currently find themselves in and reigniting their push for a top four berth.
The Broncos have won just twice since accounting for South Sydney 30-8 way back in Round 8 and need a win in order to even keep pace with those teams currently sitting inside the top four of the Telstra Premiership.
Darius Boyd, Sam Thaiday and Josh McGuire will all back up after Origin and along with the likes of Adam Blair, Andrew McCullough and Alex Glenn will be expected to make up the slack created by the absent stars.
"In terms of experience you don't get more experienced than Corey but it opens up an opportunity for one of the young guys and we've had plenty of opportunity to do that over the last month, to give some of the younger guys in the club a chance," said Broncos assistant coach Stephen Kearney.
"It will just mean Sam, 'Blairy', Alex Glenn will have to pick up a little bit more slack which I'm sure they'll do.
"I know the guys have been really determined. They've had a bit of a break and they're really determined to get back to the way that we play and the standard that we play with and we're looking forward to that this week.
"We've got to make sure that all the little things which we were doing early on in the year… Regardless of Origin we'd stopped doing those over the last month or so. That's got to be our focus tomorrow night."
Hooker Andrew McCullough made his return after a month out in Brisbane's 48-6 mauling at the hands of Melbourne last start and with Nikorima sidelined will be expected to play 80 minutes against the Rabbitohs.
Despite the difficulty the team has gone through in recent weeks McCullough is confident that if Brisbane can rediscover the form that made them one of the premiership fancies early in the season, they can again challenge for a top four spot.
"Doing small things during the game that have been letting us down the last month and a half. We know how we need to fix that and it starts tomorrow night," McCullough said.
"You think guys are going to come back in [after Origin] and just make it happen but it's a team performance from 1-17 that needs to pick their act up from the last two months.
"We are confident that we can do that, we've got a great squad and we've been relatively injury free.
"We've been disappointing the last two months but we can turn that around this weekend. It's good to have plenty of momentum at the back-end of the year so hopefully we can scrape into the top four or even higher."
The Broncos have conceded an uncharacteristic 88 points in their past two outings but even though they were humbled against Melbourne in Round 17 Kearney was actually encouraged by elements of what he saw.
"I thought we took some positive steps against Melbourne," Kearney said.
"I know the scoreline didn't reflect that but we'd had a couple of performances before that that just weren't the Brisbane Broncos standard but I thought against the Storm we fought really hard.
"We lost a winger which didn't help and they scored a number of tries off of kicks but I thought we took some really positive steps.
"There's no doubt we've probably lost a bit of confidence and doing those little things for each other has been a focus the last couple of weeks.
"We know if we get back to doing that we give ourselves a real opportunity."