The Brisbane Broncos are expecting an aerial bombardment from Ash Taylor on Sunday night but catching sessions with a high-tech ball machine have them ready to defuse any towering floaters.
Broncos captain Darius Boyd and retired winger Jharal Yow Yeh have told NRL.com about the extra confidence the back three at the club, in particular, have gained from the sessions leading into the Suncorp Stadium clash with the Gold Coast Titans.
The ball machine sessions are the brainchild of assistant coach Kurt Richards who has studied the hang time of bombs sent up by the likes of Nathan Cleary, Cooper Cronk and Taylor. But this machine can send them up even higher.
Boyd and wingers Jamayne Isaako and Jonus Pearson are set to be the beneficiaries of the sessions when Taylor peppers the skies on Sunday.
"Our funny ball machine flips out these massive kicks that go 40, 50 and 60 metres in the air that are hard to catch and they go twice as high as what someone could probably kick a ball," Boyd told NRL.com.
"There's the sheer height of it, the way it comes down, and a bit of wind can make it quite tough, so the boys have got a lot of confidence out of catching them.
"When a game comes and they only go up half as high you feel like you are going to catch them.
Broncos v Titans - Round 4
"Ash Taylor is very good at those high kicks and we watched how Benji [Marshall] was putting up some spirals and floaters from the last few rounds and we spoke about our positioning for that. I thought we handled most of the [Wests] Tigers kicks pretty well, so the machine has been a big help."
Yow Yeh has worked closely with the Broncos wingers and done sessions himself with the machine, where the training replicates game conditions.
"Ash Taylor's strength is predominantly his kicking game and putting up what we wingers call floaters, which are very hard to catch when they are coming down at a rate of knots," Yow Yeh said.
"Richo has done a great job with the boys because when they use that ball machine at training they have people coming at them and Richo has the tackling bags out and puts pressure on them at the same time.
"At the end of a set of six it could mean the result in a game if someone drops the ball, or you end up defending your line."
The Broncos have given 22-year-old Pearson his 10th NRL game and Yow Yeh said he was outstanding under the high ball.
"I think he brings a bit of an X-factor to the team," Yow Yeh said.
"I don’t think we've seen all of what Jonus has to offer yet. He is still growing as a player and just needs more time in the NRL. I am really excited to see where he can go from here."