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Whitbread ready for the Taumalolo challenge

The advice this week will be simple: "Same again, son".

With Jai Arrow named to play for the Maroons in Origin I, Jai Whitbread is likely to start at lock for the Titans on Sunday where he will go up against Cowboys colossus Jason Taumalolo.

The 21-year-old was called into the run-on side late last week when Arrow went down with a quadriceps injury during the captain's run and ran for 102 metres in 35 minutes.

More importantly, he limited the impact of Manly giant Martin Taupau.

Taupau was restricted to 117 metres as the Titans fought back from a 12-0 deficit to win 36-18 and now face a Cowboys team who were 28-16 victors when the same teams met in Townsville only a few weeks ago.

Described by the younger Whitbread as his "toughest critic", Greg Whitbread played 60 games for Canterbury and Gold Coast between 1986-1991 and said his son won't need too many tips to stop Taumalolo on Sunday at Cbus Super Stadium.

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"I thought he handled Marty Taupau all right on the weekend. What's the difference between him and Taumalolo?" Whitbread senior asked.

"Maybe a couple of yards quicker and maybe a bit stronger but it's up to him to make the decision.

"I just give him a little bit of advice here and there and tell him what I think but he doesn't say too much.

"He's got the opportunity now, it's up to him to grab it."

Our game compared to today was 10 feet slower. We played a whole different style

Greg Whitbread on the challenges facing his son Jai

When he made his NRL debut in round 18 against the Roosters last season Jai and his father Greg joined a small band of father-son duos to play first grade for Gold Coast.

A member of the first Gold Coast Giants team that played 1988, Whitbread has joined Robert Simpkins and David King as those to have watched their sons also play for Gold Coast.

But one game was never going to be enough for the junior Whitbread who joined South Tweed as a youngster after a brief flirtation with soccer.

"Making my debut last year gave me the extra belief that I could play in that arena and hold my own in that arena," Jai told

"But more than anything it left me hungrier to be there week in and week out.

"It was the highlight of my year last year and since the pre-season, I've been striving to get another crack."

Whitbread has played five games in the opening 11 rounds. Last week was his first in the starting side.

While his father had to contend with the likes of David Gillespie, Ron Gibbs and Mark Sargent some 30 years ago, Greg says he doesn't envy the assignment his son is given each week.

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"We had no 120-kilo blokes running at us. I played at 92!" recalls Greg, who played all of his 60 premiership games in the forward pack. His son weighs in at 107kg.

"He's not like the other big front-rowers they have these days. David Gillespie, Paul Dunn, none of them were running around like they run around today.

"They're a different breed these days, the whole game has changed.

"Our game compared to today was 10 feet slower. We played a whole different style of footy and it's that hard to compare the two."

Given who he played against in the 1980s and 1990s, it’s little wonder Greg is more disciplinarian and less mollycoddler.

"He definitely doesn't cuddle me," Jai says.

"He's probably my toughest critic and the one that I take the most from. He'll tell me what I need to do.

"That's just how it's been and it makes me be tough on myself as well.

"Mum doesn't really get involved though. She's more worried about whether I get hurt or not.

"She used to make me wear headgear when I was a bit younger.

“One day I took it off and ran out, didn't tell her, and she didn't know if I was playing or not. She couldn't find me on the field because I didn't have this headgear on.

"I got a bit of a serve after the game but I never wore the headgear again."

As for his Dad's exploits as a footballer, like the advice he has been given over the years, Jai says he’ll just have to trust his old man’s word.

"I've heard that he was alright. He tries to tell me that he was alright," adds Jai.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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