Giant prop Payne Haas will return from suspension for the Broncos against the Wests Tigers and has been urged by hooker Andrew McCullough to turn up with the right mindset and deliver regardless of his inexperience and youth.
The Broncos have accepted a guilty plea and two-game suspension for Tevita Pangai Jnr after the Tongan international was hit with a dangerous contact charge for a late tackle on Cooper Cronk in the 36-4 loss to the Roosters.
The 20-year-old Haas comes into the side, most likely off the bench.
Second-rower Matt Gillett was on light duties at training on Sunday nursing a foot injury, while fellow forward Alex Glenn trained away from the main group after suffering a head knock in Thursday's loss. McCullough said he was confident both would play against the Tigers.
Haas has been a standout at training and was the Broncos best in a trial against Souths-Logan before being suspended for four games by the Broncos for failing to co-operate fully with an NRL Integrity Unit investigation into a family incident. McCullough said Haas’s size and quick play-the-ball speed would be vital against the Tigers on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Match Highlights: Roosters v Broncos
"Payne will come off the bench for us and tighten things up. He’ll be full of energy," McCullough said.
"If you are a big guy like that you should be able to play the ball quickly. Big Payne has got to keep it simple…run onto the ball hard and make his tackles.
"He’s been out for a while…but a big frame like that in any team is handy when you look for the forward pack to create a bit of momentum. He might be that guy."
Haas has only played minimal minutes in three NRL games off the bench but McCullough said it was up to the giant prop to handle the rigours of the NRL despite his age.
"It just comes with the territory. There are a lot of young guys coming into grade now, a lot of expectations, and a lot of hype," McCullough said.
"Money is changing with the salary cap increase. As a young guy it is a rollercoaster week-in and week-out and you’ve got to enjoy it. He’s just got to turn up with the right frame of mind to deliver for his teammates.
The Broncos have reviewed their dire display against the Roosters where 54 tackles were missed. McCullough said the message from coach Anthony Seibold was simply "make your tackles".
Matt Lodge and Kodi Nikorima missed seven each while Jack Bird (six), Joe Ofahengaue (five) and Glenn (five) also had too many misses in their column.
McCullough said the chances of a collective turnaround against the Wests Tigers would depend upon the application of each individual in the side. He rubbished suggestions the Broncos should be given some slack for adjusting to a new way of defending in the middle under new coach Seibold.
"It just comes back to desire, energy and competing. Those things you can’t teach. It is up to the individual to get himself right," McCullough said.
"If you don’t make tackles it is never going to be a good night so to miss 50, regardless of technique and the teaching, it is never going to help.
"It is a simple fix but it could be a slippery slope if we don’t turn it around pretty quick."
The Broncos have been labelled "soft" by several former players including former Test prop Greg Dowling. McCullough said that he had reflected on his own performance but had "got past the stage of listening to outside noise at my age".
"It is a young group and it is going to fluctuate but the difference between our good and bad games can't be a big difference and that is something we need to improve on," he said.