Brisbane’s hopes of reviving their flagging finals aspirations have received a major boost with Origin prop Joe Ofahengaue on track to return in a clash with Newcastle on Saturday that Anthony Milford describes as “do or die”.
Languishing in 12th position and with their bye week already used, a third straight loss against the fifth-placed Knights would put Anthony Seibold’s team in a position where they would need a lengthy winning streak to force their way into the top eight.
Queensland representatives Corey Oates, Matt Gillett and David Fifita will all line up against Newcastle while Payne Haas has recovered from the hamstring strain suffered in the embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Eels last start.
But it is the addition of Ofahengaue on the bench that the Broncos will benefit from most against a Knights forward pack with two Origin representatives of their own and the possible return of NSW prop David Klemmer.
Ofahengaue suffered a deep laceration below his knee in Queensland’s Game One win at Suncorp Stadium on June 5 and was initially expected to miss a month of football.
Pearce up for Origin III, praises Saifiti
Sporting a bandage over the cut, the 23-year-old completed Tuesday’s training session without incident and gave his teammates the confidence that he will be there on Saturday.
“I thought he trained real well there today,” was Anthony Milford’s appraisal, the five-eighth returning to the folds after a successful week leading Samoa to victory over Papua New Guinea.
“Just going to see how he pulls up on our captain's run and hopefully he's good to go.
“It’s pretty much a do or die game from now on in.”
Still smarting from the heavy defeat at the hands of the Blues in Perth on Sunday, Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough believes the inclusion of the team’s Maroons players can have a positive influence for their club team.
Oates has scored eight tries in his past seven games against the Knights and given the lopsided nature of the Origin scoreline McCullough expects to see a quick response from the Broncos’ best players.
"They're Origin players so they're handy for any team to be coming back,” McCullough said of their inclusion.
“I know they had a disappointing result but they'll be looking to come back into club footy and perform really well and show everyone what they're capable of.
"No doubt that will be a positive for us, that they'll want to put their best foot forward after Sunday.”
Initially unable to unseat Jake Turpin from the starting hooker position upon his return from a knee injury, McCullough has been named in the No.9 jersey to face the Knights.
Rather than shying away from the challenge presented by Turpin’s performance in his absence, McCullough believes the competition will bring the best out in both of them.
Tackle of the week: Representative Round
"I was out with a knee injury and Jake played some tremendous footy,” said McCullough.
“He won a players' player award and that's what you want in your footy organisation. You want to reward players for their efforts regardless of reputation, experience or what they have done before.
"You want blokes playing well for you and Jake has done a tremendous job the last month and a half and that's the reward you get. That just goes to show that if you put your best foot forward you get an opportunity and he took that.
"He's a great guy to have around the club, really enjoyable. He just wants to learn and be a part of a winning team like the majority of the guys there.
“You want that and you enjoy having those guys in your team because they just want to play and compete with you as well.”