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Why Broncos can laugh about loss of Reynolds

“I am glad he got COVID, and he has gone MIA for a week. He is an absolute punish so it gives us a break”.

Pat Carrigan was obviously joking about the loss of star recruit and new captain Adam Reynolds for next Friday night’s season opener against South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium but in some ways his absence has reduced the pressure valve for the Broncos.

With Reynolds and forward Kobe Hetherington ruled out while they isolate after testing positive to COVID-19 on Thursday, there will be no more questions about who will partner Reynolds in the halves and no more hype about his clash with the team he led to last year’s grand final in Brisbane.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters and the players would much rather have their star playmaker lead the club for the first time, but they weren’t tempted to try and keep their fears that Reynolds had contracted COVID-19 a secret.

Broncos forward Pat Carrigan
Broncos forward Pat Carrigan ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

In contrast, the club issued a media statement while Reynolds and Hetherington were awaiting the results of a PCR test to confirm their positive RAT tests, and began preparing to play without the pair.

Billy Walters, Tyson Gamble and Albert Kelly, who missed last Saturday’s 30-6 pre-season trial loss to North Queensland due to COVID-19, are now vying for two playmaking spots instead of one.

Carrigan or Queensland Origin forward Kurt Capewell is likely to take over the captaincy against Souths.

“We won’t have anyone asking those questions anymore, now that Reyno’s out of the picture,” Carrigan said.

“Reyno didn’t play any trials and that is a good thing, I think. It gave the boys in the halves and other positions extra time together, so if that is a small win for us we will take it.

“We knew this could happen at any point, with him and a bunch of other boys having COVID. I am sure that other clubs are not dissimilar.

“It is just the ‘next man in’ mentality. If you get selected in a Broncos jersey this year it is expected that you go out to compete first and foremost, and if we all do that well we put ourselves in a good position to win footy games.”

Reynolds spoke about his frustration at being forced to delay his Broncos debut on the club’s website, saying: “Round two has to be the goal now”.

That match is against last season's wooden spooners Canterbury, a team widely tipped to improve significantly, followed by clashes with the Cowboys and Warriors - neither of whom made the 2021 play-offs.

Adam Reynolds has been appointed as Broncos captain
Adam Reynolds has been appointed as Broncos captain ©Broncos

However, for the Broncos it will be just as important they start the season well with or without Reynolds, particularly in front of their home fans – many of whom have been affected by the extreme weather in south-east Queensland.

“It is obviously disappointing and Reyno is probably filthy,” Carrigan said. “I think [Souths forward] Jai Arrow thinks he is running scared but it is what it is, and we will just have to move forward.

“I am excited and I know all the others boys are excited. Suncorp will probably have 40,000 fans there. The Bunnies were in the GF last year so they are obviously going to have a good side and will give us a good position on where we are at.

“With the floods and everything that has happened I think it will be a big game. It is crazy times around Brissie at the moment and we only play a small part as footy players, but we can give people some enjoyment next Friday night by showing them that the Broncos are back on the path to where we want to be.”

It’s been the toughest period in the history of the Broncos, with the club failing to make the finals since 2019 but the signing of Reynolds underlines the drawing power Brisbane still possess and he is viewed as a player who can turn around their fortunes.

Kurt Capewell is under consideration to captain the Broncos in round one
Kurt Capewell is under consideration to captain the Broncos in round one ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Carrigan said the veteran playmaker had immediately fitted in and the practical jokes he was renowned for at South Sydney had helped create a relaxed atmosphere among the playing group.

“One thing I have noticed is that he is a big believer in mateship and camaraderie and those things coming first; then you nail the skill in terms of your footy on the back of it,” Carrigan said.

“Tyson Gamble is probably his bunny. He gets into Tyson a fair bit, he just peppers him, but he gets into everyone. I think at the end of the day he is bringing the enjoyment factor back into our footy in Brissie.

“It has been well documented that we have had a couple of tough years but in terms of where the club is going, if we can enjoy each other’s company first and foremost, and enjoy playing football, then it is a lot easier to do the extras and those sort of things that put you in a position where he has been - winning footy games and winning comps.”

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