The Brisbane Broncos were, to put it bluntly, embarrassing on Thursday night.
They could start the NRL season with a first-time fullback and 22-year-old captain but Brisbane great Darren Lockyer says the Broncos have no excuses this year.
Alex Glenn, Darius Boyd’s successor as captain, remains under an injury cloud to be fit for the side’s blockbuster season opener in Townsville against North Queensland next Friday.
Jack Bird looks set to wear the No.1 while injury to Matt Lodge and the suspension of Joe Ofahengaue will also rob them of size and experience up front.
That leaves Patrick Carrigan, who will be playing in just his 20th NRL game, as the frontrunner to captain after he led the side in the weekend’s final trial game.
There’s nothing to complain about if you ask Broncos great Lockyer though.
“They are (in a better position than last year); there’s no excuses really” he said.
“They’ve had limited disruptions in the off-season, a couple of injuries to senior players.
“But Brodie Croft comes in and he’s an organising halfback, which is what the team was in need of.”
Lockyer said Carrigan’s natural leadership belied his inexperience while he also backed Bird to flourish at fullback.
Bird has endured two injury-impacted seasons at Brisbane and while originally arriving at Red Hill as a representative centre from Cronulla, looks set to beat Jamayne Isaako to the No.1 jersey this season.
“Jack’s a footballer; very instinctive, knows where to be and it’s a challenge for him that I think he’s enjoying,” Lockyer said.
“Speaking from experience, being at fullback you’re a lot more involved, because you can go anywhere you want on the field.
“Jack’s been a bit frustrated through his injuries but he’s got an opportunity and he’ll enjoy it.”
Glenn is no certainty to recover fully from a preseason hamstring complaint, leaving the fresh-faced Carrigan as the unlikely man to take over from Boyd.
“Pat’s a really impressive young kid and just because they’re young and maybe not playing a lot of football games, it doesn’t mean they’re not a natural leader,” Lockyer said.