Replacing McCullough no one-man job
Brisbane second-row forward Sam Thaiday says no individual can replace injured hooker Andrew McCullough, instead insisting it will take a team effort to replicate the efforts of the Broncos' workhorse.
McCullough is facing seven to eight months on the sideline after injuring both his ACL and MCL, and above all else it will be his defensive grit that the Broncos will miss the most.
His 49 tackles per game in 2017 have been an integral part in getting Brisbane to the top four, with the Dalby junior regularly playing 80 minutes in the middle.
Thaiday, who has played with McCullough since the 27-year-old made his Broncos debut in 2008, has spent many of those minutes next to McCullough in Brisbane's forward pack, and he believes McCullough's superhuman workload can only be reproduced if it is spread amongst his fellow forwards.
"That comes down to a team effort. We have to spread that throughout all the forwards now. He's going to be missed," Thaiday said.
"Now that he's not playing, people will notice a lot of things out there that Andrew McCullough normally does.
"He's the third man in on a lot of tackles, he's the leader of our line speed and he normally puts the kick pressure on. They are all little things that we are going to have to pick up as a team."
The Broncos' first test without McCullough comes in the form of the Gold Coast Titans, with Wayne Bennett's men travelling down to CBUS Super Stadium on Saturday night.
The local derby is sure to have plenty of feeling as the Titans try to exact revenge against a Brisbane side that stole victory from the jaws of defeat in their previous meeting in Round 7.
Gold Coast led 22-20 with two minutes to go in that match before Matt Gillett charged down a Kane Elgey kick to create the match-winning try.
Gillett regathered and passed to former Titan James Roberts who beat a number of Gold Coast defenders to score his third four-pointer of the match and secure an unlikely victory.
Thaiday expects this defeat to be fresh in the minds of Gold Coast's players, with the veteran Bronco predicting a different Titans team to the one that suffered a disappointing result to the Wests Tigers last start.
"This is a game that both teams normally get up for and it is one that we are excited about," he said.
"We really need to improve on where we were last week. I'm sure the Titans will be the same after their performance against the Wests Tigers.
"They'll be filthy and wanting to improve on that. It's all about pride now for both teams and I'm sure it's going to be a cracking game."
One player that will have a big say on the result is former Bronco Ash Taylor who made his NRL debut for Brisbane in 2015 before moving to the Titans in 2016 to chase more minutes in first grade.
It has worked out well for him, with the 22-year-old now one of the best young talents in the game.
Thaiday has been keeping an eye on his former teammate and he is loving seeing the young halfback succeed at NRL level.
"Ash had a cracking season last year and he's really growing as a player. He's only going to get better," he said.
"I've always been very interested in watching how Ash develops. Being from here and a junior Broncos product, it is always exciting to see how those types of players develop when they leave our club. He has a huge future ahead of him."