Bennett praises Thaiday for 'manning up'
Wayne Bennett has hailed the "tremendous" form of veteran Sam Thaiday since being elevated to the starting prop position, as the former Queensland and Australian forward prepares for his final regular season game against Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Thaiday has played the last 18 rounds as a starting front-rower and the Broncos have won 12 of those matches.
Brisbane were struggling after the opening five rounds. Thaiday came off the bench in four of those games and filled in as a starting hooker in the other.
There was speculation Bennett may drop him to the the Intrust Super Cup but the Broncos coach showed faith in Thaiday and he responded in kind.
"Sam worked really hard in the pre-season and it is the pre-season that is the hardest thing for these guys towards the end of their careers," Bennett said.
"He started the season a bit slow, but we all started a bit slow. I was always going to persevere with him and I knew I wasn't going to put him anywhere else other than in the first-grade squad.
"Then we started him after a couple of weeks [off the bench]. He got an eye for that, and enjoyed doing that, and that is how the season has panned out for him with him playing some really good football. He does a tough job in the middle and his form this year has been tremendous for us.
"It is the last year of his playing life and his body is not what it was 10 years ago, but he keeps manning up and getting the job done."
Thaiday, 33, has embraced his final year in the NRL, announcing the impending end of his career at a retirement village dressed up as an old man.
He has played 302 NRL games for Brisbane and written his autobiography, which the Broncos have celebrated with great fanfare.
"Sam has been a wonderful player here and I think it is the best send-off I've seen anybody in the game do," Bennett said.
"Sam, besides being a good person, is a great calming influence on the players here, doesn't get excited or carry on, and is always in the background working for somebody who may have an issue or need a bit of help."
The Broncos trained in front of a large group of supporters on Saturday as their women's team went through their paces on the men's former training field ahead of Sunday's trial clash with the PNG Orchids.
The eighth-placed Broncos' destiny is in their own hands to some extent as far as their final placing on the Telstra Premiership ladder is concerned.
To play a home final they need to beat Manly, first and foremost. If the Dragons also win the Broncos will know exactly how many points they need to defeat the Sea Eagles by to leapfrog St George Illawarra and finish sixth.
"What is important for us is that we play well tomorrow and the rest will look after itself wherever we are [on the ladder]," Bennett said.
"If we are in good form at this time of the year that is as important as anything else we can do."