Broncos to target Sharks' rookie rake
The Broncos are set to target young Cronulla-Sutherland hooker Jayden Brailey on Thursday night when he makes his NRL debut in the season opener.
Brailey has replaced the retired Michael Ennis in the No.9 jersey after impressing in a number of the Sharks' trial matches.
He has beaten Cronulla-Sutherland off-season recruits Manaia Cherrington and Daniel Mortimer for a spot in the starting side, with coach Shane Flanagan rating the Sharks' under-20s graduate very highly.
At just 20 years old, Brailey will be thrown into the deep end as he comes up against a Brisbane pack boasting several games of international experience for a range of countries such as Samoa, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
If Brailey's job wasn't already hard enough, he will also start opposite one of the Broncos' most consistent players in Andrew McCullough.
There is no doubting that Brailey will be up for the challenge, but Ennis's 273 games of NRL experience are simply irreplaceable.
For that reason, it's a huge loss for Cronulla-Sutherland who are looking to be the first team to win back-to-back NRL premierships since the Broncos in 1992-1993.
Brisbane second-row forward Sam Thaiday – who played with Ennis from 2006-2008 – said Brailey will find it hard taking over from one of the most competitive players to run onto an NRL field.
"He (Ennis) is a very big loss. He was a huge competitor for them," Thaiday said.
"I think he used to steer that Sharks team around so he'll be a hard person to replace.
"In saying that, I'm sure they've trained just as hard as us and they are just as ready as us."
After Cronulla-Sutherland, the Broncos will play the Cowboys, the Storm and the Raiders in successive weeks.
These four opponents were the top four sides in 2016, and Thaiday said Brisbane's tough start is the perfect way to begin the new season.
"It's a huge four weeks for us to see where we are at as a team. If we have a good start then we can really stamp our authority on the competition," he said.
"The first port of call is Thursday's match at Shark Park against the Sharks.
"The Sharks are the reigning premiers so everyone is excited that we have the opportunity to knock them off.
"We're all just pumped to be playing footy again. We're over the pre-season so it's good to be back into it."