Baby Broncos take on Roosters as injuries hit hard
Brisbane will field a side with a 'Baby Broncos' look about it against the Sydney Roosters on Friday night with two club debutants and a plethora of inexperienced forwards to take the field.
The Broncos have four internationals out of action due to injury with Josh McGuire (ankle), Alex Glenn (knee), Matt Gillett (neck) and Jordan Kahu (jaw) all on the sidelines, along with one State of Origin incumbent in Jack Bird (sternum).
Into the team for the Roosters clash comes 19-year-old utility Kotoni Staggs for his NRL debut and 23-year-old forward Patrick Mago who will be making his club debut after playing two Telstra Premiership matches for the North Queensland Cowboys last year.
The starting lineup will feature 23-year-old Matt Lodge with just 22 NRL games to his credit and a back row of Jaydn Su'A (20), Tevita Pangai jnr (22) and Joe Ofahengaue (22). While Ofahengaue has played 56 NRL games on Friday night he will start for just the fourth time in his career.
Throw in rookie winger Jamayne Isaako (22) and 18-game centre Tom Opacic (23) and the Broncos' inexperience and youth is clear.
The Broncos have a ritual at the end of each pre-game training session where someone scores a try under the sticks to bring training to a close, often a debutant or new player.
On Thursday it was Staggs who did the honours and celebrated with a backflip somersault that Nathan Blacklock in his pomp would have been proud of.
Staggs has been playing in the Intrust Super Cup for the Redcliffe Dolphins where he has made a massive impact to be the competition's leading point scorer in just seven games with five tries and 32 goals to his credit.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett said his elevation to the bench was deserved and needed.
"He can play a number of positions for us and we need that in that 17th position," Bennett said.
"We have three forwards there [on the bench] and if we put four forwards there that is not going to work for us.
"Kotoni can play back row, halfback, centre and wing. He is a pretty handy player and trains as good as anyone around the club. For a young bloke he's been outstanding actually."
Mago will add power off the bench where he takes the place of the injured Payne Haas.
"He's highly skilled and defensively he is very good so we are optimistic he'll play well for us," Bennett said of Mago.
Bennett said it wasn't the worst injury list he'd seen during his time at the Broncos but was still significant.
After last week's loss to Manly he pointed out that having a lot of young forwards on the field at once each week was an issue, due to their inability yin the formative stages of their careers to be at their best consistently.
At his Thursday press conference Bennett admitted that remained a challenge.
"It is, but we can't do anything about it. We've got lots of injuries and we've got our best players on the field that we can possibly get and that is all we can do," he said.
"I'd rather have my best team out every week. That's what you try to aim for, so I don't see it as a blessing in disguise but it is a challenge."
James Roberts aggravated an Achilles injury he's been playing with all season and left training early on Thursday but Bennett said his star centre would play against the Roosters.
Bennett has been impressed with the Roosters and said he was expecting another torrid clash against a club the Broncos had lined up against in plenty of big games.