The Brisbane Broncos are set for a backline reshuffle against the North Queensland Cowboys with 20-year-old centre Gehamat Shibasaki in line to make his NRL debut.
Shibasaki, of Torres Strait Islander and Japanese heritage, has been playing with the Norths Devils in the Intrust Super Cup and has represented both Queensland Residents and Queensland under 20s this year.
He trained at left centre for Brisbane on Monday with captain Darius Boyd reverting to fullback and Jamayne Isaako to the right wing. Kiwi international Jordan Kahu appears set to be dropped.
The Broncos will be without representative lock Josh McGuire on Thursday night. McGuire has taken an early guilty plea to a contrary conduct charge for pulling the hair of Adam Elliott in the 36-22 loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Star forward Tevita Pangai jnr is also in doubt after leaving the field against the Bulldogs with an ongoing hamstring complaint.
While the team is yet to be finalised, Isaako said Shibasaki had earned his call-up and that he was happy to go back to the wing after "a couple of key positional changes this week" ahead of the Cowboys clash.
"Some hard decisions have been made for Shibasaki to make his debut and it will be good for him to debut back home in Townsville where he is from," Isaako said.
"I played 20s with him and he is strong and athletic. He will bring a lot of energy if he was to make his debut this week.
"This is obviously a game we want to win and obviously with Darbs (Boyd) having more experience [Wayne Bennett] could be chucking him back at fullback.
"It was good to get back there and get a feel for playing fullback at the top level. [Boyd] going back gives me an opportunity to go back to the wing and watch him do his thing in big games like this."
Veteran forward Sam Thaiday said McGuire had let the team down by his actions when asked whether the players had been giving him stick for his behaviour..
"I am surprised no-one has pulled his beard yet. That is a prime target," Thaiday grinned, before addressing the question on a serious note.
"To be honest Josh is fairly disappointed in his actions and he will tell you that himself. The Cowboys is a game that Josh really enjoys. He's got a bit of family up there in Townsville and he is disappointed that he has let the team down… and them down as well."
Thaiday, who will play his 300th NRL game for Brisbane on Thursday night, said he was unaware of the circumstances surrounding the exit of club legend Corey Parker from his role as ruck coach with the Broncos, in the wake of a report it was over a falling out with several players after a night out. Parker has denied the report.
Thaiday did say that Parker would be missed.
"Corey was doing a bit of wrestling stuff with us and doing a great job," he said.
"I still catch up with Corey. I don't need him to be around the club 24/7 to continue to be a good mate with him. I think he brought some really good things to the club while he was here and if he comes back it will be great for some of our young forwards going forward."
Thaiday said the Cowboys clash was a danger game for the inconsistent Broncos.
"They are playing for pride," he said of North Queensland.
"They haven't been too far off in a few games they have played this year and don't want to finish with the wooden spoon.
"That is a danger game for us. Every time we play the Cowboys it is a cracking game and I don't think that is going to change.
"It is a rollercoaster at the moment. We have still got some young guys there that are going to continue to grow and build to become the great players everyone wants them to be.
"There is no magic wand that you can wave over them and expect it straight away. We are still ironing out a few things but if we can stay in this top eight we can really shake up a few sides at the end of the year."
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