Broncos stars brace for massive 2017
There will be more than 300 days between the Downer NRL Auckland Nines from February 4 and the Rugby League World Cup Final on December 2, yet two of the Broncos' biggest stars are ready to embrace the year ahead.
Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday, Adam Blair and Jordan Kahu all returned from their post-Four Nations break for day one of pre-season training on Wednesday with Boyd comfortably coming out on top in the Yo-Yo intermittent fitness drill.
Refreshed after their success with the Kangaroos in England, Gillett and Boyd could both feature for the Broncos in Auckland before returning to the northern hemisphere to take part in the World Club Series against Warrington on February 18.
The NRL season-opener against the Sharks follows less than two weeks later and if both Boyd and Gillett can feature in an extended Broncos campaign into September and retain their places in both the Queensland and Australia teams they are looking at in excess of 35 games in 2017.
Gillett missed five games in 2016 either through Origin commitments or injury and admitted that he will be guided by the medical staff as to any necessary breaks over the course of the season.
In doubt prior to the selection of the Kangaroos squad with a shoulder injury, Gillett admitted that he was surprised it held up over the four post-season Tests and will be guided by Broncos medical staff with regards to his workload as the season progresses.
"That little break between when we finished the season here at the Broncs and over to the Four Nations was really good for it," Gillett said of his shoulder injury.
"I was pretty surprised myself that it held up through the Four Nations but it's fine, no problems at all.
"I'd love to be playing out there every week but sometimes that's not our choice. Sometimes our coaching staff and trainers have other things in mind and want to rest you just to free the body up and mentally refresh.
"Week-to-week footy is pretty full-on for the body but fingers crossed it does hold up."
With his club and representative commitments Boyd featured in 33 games in 2016 and despite entering his 12th season and fast approaching 30 is not put off by the prospect of playing a few more this season.
He said that Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga factored in plenty of days off during the Four Nations to freshen the players up after a big year and that the Broncos' regular Friday night timeslot makes management through the season easier than it is for many other sides.
"I think I played 33 [games] last year so if it's 35 this year and you play them all, what's two more games?" Boyd said.
"In the tour Mal really looked after us and we had a lot of days off over there which I think really prepared us well for all the games over there and Wayne [Bennett, Broncos coach] is the best at it at club footy.
"We've always got a lot of time off here. We're lucky here that we play a lot of Fridays and Thursdays to get those longer turnarounds and weekends off so they do look after us here.
"For me personally, I just want to play really good for the club and if my warrants and you get selected for those teams then I'd love to be there again.
"But if I'm not playing good footy with the Broncos then there's no point worrying about what's in the future."