Players usually earn nicknames but according the Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday rookie prop Josh McGuire came with his own – “The Big Show”.
McGuire, who turned 19 this month, was handed his NRL debut on Thursday by Brisbane coach Ivan Henjak after forwards Nick Kenny (hamstring) and Lagi Setu (sternum) and centre Michael DeVere (hamstring) were all ruled out of the trip to Auckland to play the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
Playing the Warriors at home is a tough ask even for someone like Thaiday who has played Origin and Test football.
For a kid making his NRL debut it’s as daunting as it gets.
But both Thaiday and Henjak are confident the aggressive teenager, a former roller hockey player with a strict military-style upbringing, has what it takes to prove a surprise weapon in an inexperienced Broncos pack.
Asked his opinion of McGuire the wise-cracking Thaiday said: “he’s named himself the Big Show and he goes alright.”
“He’s scored four tries in the last two weeks playing Queensland Cup.
“He runs the ball hard and he’s got a lot of ticker in him.
“He’s not one of your bigger front-rowers, he’s a bit smaller than me, but he’s got a big heart.”
Henjak, who said it was too risky taking Kenny, Setu and DeVere to New Zealand, continued talking up McGuire, admitting he was “excited” about the teenager’s debut.
“We’re pretty excited about that and he’s excited to have the opportunity,” said Henjak before the 17-man squad flew out of Brisbane on Thursday.
“We’re keen to have a look at him and see how he handles it.”
Henjak said McGuire would bring enthusiasm and energy to the team.
“He’s also quite aggressive and he’s got quite good speed and footwork so he’s got a lot of pluses.
“I hope he’s still got the nickname The Big Show when he gets back.”
Thaiday said narrow wins over the Cowboys and Melbourne in the opening two rounds had brought the players together.
“It showed we’re willing to play for each other. To see everyone have a dig for each other was great,” he said.
The loss of prop Kenny and stinging defender Setu, two key forwards, was a setback but Thaiday said the spirit within the team was strong.
“That’s alright, we’ve got a few young kids in there who are willing to have a dig and that’s what you want in your footy side.
“You want players that want to play with you and in the first few weeks.
“We’ve had players out before and we’ve shown we can dig in.