Andrew McCullough is confident the Brisbane Broncos' new-look spine can start the season with a bang despite likely not having any game time together before they face the St George Illawarra Dragons.
As reported by NRL.com last week, McCullough rates himself a 90-10 chance of playing in the March 8 season opener at Kogarah with his recovery from an ACL injury progressing well.
With Ben Hunt and Benji Marshall gone, the spine of Darius Boyd, Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima and McCullough will need to fire for the Broncos to be true Telstra Premiership contenders.
The Broncos will be hoping it will be a long-term quartet now Nikorima has the chance to make the position his own.
McCullough pointed to Nikorima's winning percentage at starting halfback in 2017 as a positive sign with the Broncos winning 11 from 13, a healthy 84.6%, of games he started in the No.7 jersey.
"Kodi has played enough football, Anthony has been there for many years and Darius, coming back from a hamstring [injury], has experience," McCullough said after Brisbane training on Monday.
"The ratio of Kodi winning games last year [at halfback] is really impressive and hopefully that continues.
"[Milford] will go well. I think he just needs to not do more than he has to.
"There are a few things in his game he might need to adjust in taking control of the team with Benny [Hunt] obviously gone, but Milf has played enough games and knows what he has to do.
"He just needs to not over-play his hand and do his job. My job is in the middle of the park with the big boys and controlling those guys and if I can do my job that will obviously help him to do his job."
Broncos assistant coach Jason Demetriou told NRL.com that Nikorima would benefit from the other three members of the spine being established in their positions.
The Kiwi international is close off the field with Milford, and with McCullough back in action in ball work and Boyd not far away from rejoining the main group in training, Demetriou said he saw only upsides for the halves duo.
"Kodi and Anthony enjoy playing together and have that real brotherhood between them, having known each other for a long time," Demetriou said.
"That is evident out on the field and it is going to be good for them going forward.
"It will be good when we get Darius on the training field a bit more because he gives them that experience and composure, and it is the same with Macca.
"We've only had Macca on the [training] field the last week and you see the difference in the halves' games straight away when he is on the field.
"He was a big loss for us last year and it is great to have him back on the field."
McCullough said he wasn't sure whether playing game time in a trial before round one was feasible, with the next two weeks to be the determining factor.
"I've played enough football now and I know what to expect for round one with the speed and contact," he said.
"I am not worried about that. I have prepared really well.
"I have just got to nail this next month of training with the boys in a bit more contact, tackling and game situations to test the leg out, but [the knee] feels good.
"This is my second or third decent session with the boys.
"To be able to tackle some big boys gives you confidence and I know I'm going to have to be able to do that throughout the year as well. I've set myself up for a good start to the year."
From the coaching angle, Demetriou said it was not essential the big guns played in the trials before round one.
"With the World Cup a lot of teams are going to have players who won't get any game time, and if they do they will probably only play 30 or 40 minutes," he said.
"Sometimes you'd like them to have a game, but for the guys who have been around for a long time it is important they are fit and feeling good for round one rather than worrying about whether they are going to be playing trials or not."