Big Broncos urged to step up
RUGBY LEAGUE: Wayne Bennett has challenged his crop of young props to stand up and deliver the punch needed for Brisbane to be an NRL premiership force this season.
The Broncos were exposed by Warrington in Sunday's World Club Series debacle in England, which raised serious questions about the club's front-row potency.
Brisbane has not found experienced replacements for forwards Corey Parker (retired) and Jarrod Wallace (Titans), and the engine room could be the club's achilles heel in 2017.
Bennett thrust Joe Ofahengaue and Herman Ese'ese into starting positions in England, but neither produced a performance to demand selection for Brisbane's season-opener against Cronulla next Thursday.
With Josh McGuire expected to replace Parker in the No.13 jersey, there is no standout contender to partner Adam Blair in the front row against the Sharks and Sam Thaiday could yet move into the middle.
Blair, who sat out the Warrington game due to the recent birth of his second child, said Bennett had spoken to the young forwards about the role they would play in Brisbane's premiership charge.
"Wayne has pulled them aside and had a word to them," he said.
"At some time in the year we're going to need them, especially during that Origin period where we did it tough last year.
"Those boys are going to get an opportunity. They have worked hard all off-season.
"The boys putting their hands up for those positions have trained really well.
"We've got some good players in there. I think we can give it a good shake."
The Broncos look a more balanced squad on paper this season with a representative back row, talented centres and fullback Darius Boyd in career-best form.
Halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt will play a major role in the club's success, but there is no doubt they need a strong foundation to play off.
There are plenty of contenders for forward positions, but whether they possess the experience and quality needed to take Brisbane deep into the finals remains to be seen.
Tevita Pangai Jnr has been the pick of the young forwards throughout the pre-season and is a certainty for Bennett's round-one team, while Jai Arrow played 12 games in his debut season last year.
Francis Molo played one of his best games in a Broncos jersey in Saturday's trial win against Wynnum-Manly to throw his name into the mix.
Rookie George Fai has jumped out of the box during the pre-season while Knights recruit Korbin Sims is expected to face the Sharks after landing in Brisbane a month ago.
"He's been really good," Blair said of Sims.
"I've played with him twice now and watched his (trial) game against the Sharks.
"He is a big body and is something we need coming off our bench or whether he is starting.
"He's done as much as he can (to earn a position). He's worked really hard in the games and trained hard."
Blair, a 239-game NRL veteran, played 40 minutes straight against Wynnum-Manly and said he was ready for the season despite not travelling to England.
"I'm all about looking after my family and making sure they are ready to go," he said.
"I know it's going to be a long year so I'm happy I was here.
"It would have been nice to play with the boys but it wasn't to be."