McCullough a certain starter for Dragons clash
Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough can't straighten a dislocated finger that he needles every day but he did get one thing straight in the Brisbane dressing room on Sunday night - "I'll be right to play the Dragons on Sunday," he told NRL.com.
The 28-year-old Brisbane rake, who sat out the 48-16 win over Manly due to a concussion he sustained the previous week after a Dylan Napa tackle gone wrong, is hungry for success and to break the Broncos 12-year premiership drought.
He's also hungry to play finals football again for the first time since 2016 after missing last year's finals series with an ACL injury.
McCullough will return to his dummy half role against St George Illawarra in Sunday's elimination final after Jake Turpin did a sterling job filling in against the Sea Eagles.
"I missed finals last year and it is hard sitting on the sidelines during a great time of the year. That's when you realise how much you miss the crunch games," McCullough told NRL.com.
"I hate sitting games out any time and you train so hard all year and these are the games you want to be in. Sunday afternoon. A dry track at Suncorp. It doesn't get any better than that, so to play finals footy at home is a great way to get back into it.
"We are very hungry [to win the premiership]. It's another year and we don't want to let it slip."
McCullough had some mild headaches the day after his head was walloped by Napa in the round 23 win over the Roosters, but said there were no physical or mental side effects.
"If it was a finals game I would have played [against Manly] but as a precaution and to play it smart I've made myself available for next week," he said.
"I have been playing long enough to put those hits out of my mind. I'll do some contact during the week and that will give me a bit more confidence but overall that is just what happens in rugby league.
"I came back from a knee [injury] this year and didn't have any mental scarring from that so I don't think a head knock will give me any dramas."
McCullough said the week off may have a silver lining.
"It will freshen me up because I have a niggling finger injury that I have been dealing with for three months and dislocating every game," he said.
"I've got to take some positives out of a negative and I'll go back to training on Tuesday after a good week off."
The last meeting between the Dragons and Broncos in finals footy in 2011 was when Darren Lockyer landed a golden point field goal at Suncorp Stadium in his final NRL game to secure a 13-12 win.
McCullough had good mate Ben Hunt by his side in that game but this time the Dragons half will be his opponent.
The banter will intensify during the week and McCullough expects his Maroons teammates to be at his best. He said Hunt's return to Suncorp Stadium for the first time in a Dragons jersey was "exciting".
"My WhatsApp is probably going off now as we speak. There will be a bit of chat during the week," he said.
"Regardless of what people think of Ben Hunt, first hand I know how hard he competes.
"In that key position you are under scrutiny. He's just got to play his best footy, but it's hard for me to pump him up too much because I've got to play him this week.
"He has probably got, not a point to prove, but to make sure his performance is hot. If Gareth Widdop is back, he might run the ball a bit more."