Broncos launch ‘Operation stop Hoppa’
Queensland star Matt Gillett has been ruled out of Thursday night's clash against the Bulldogs as the Broncos consider deploying Alex Glenn at centre to counter in-form Bulldogs ace Will Hopoate at Suncorp Stadium.
The Broncos will launch "Operation Hoppa" in a bid to keep their season alive, with coach Anthony Seibold identifying the experienced Glenn as the man to muzzle the Tongan centre torpedo who ran riot against Newcastle last week.
Former NSW Origin whizkid Hopoate played a key role in Canterbury's 20-14 upset of the Knights, amassing 24 runs, 199 metres, two line-breaks, five tackle busts and scoring a try in a superb centre display.
The Warriors last week terrorised Broncos teenager Xavier Coates on Brisbane's right edge and now Seibold is determined to ensure the Bulldogs do not exploit youth on their left side.
Rookie 19-year-old Englishman Herbie Farnworth was originally named in the No.4 jumper, but Glenn was road-tested at left centre at Brisbane's captain's run yesterday at Suncorp, with Seibold to make a final call today.
In a blow for the Broncos, Gillett (groin) has failed a fitness test, with a training session on Tuesday convincing the Brisbane coach his No.1 back-rower is not ready for a return against the Bulldogs.
"We thought Matt would be a good chance of playing but halfway through the session he said he could feel it (his groin) a bit and we needed to make sure we looked after him," Seibold said.
"We decided not to name him. It is a long turnaround until our next game (against the Titans on Saturday week), so we needed to make sure we don't hurt him any further.
"We had a bit of an experiment (with Glenn at centre) because we thought 'Gillo' would be right to play. We have named Herbie in the centres but 'Lexi' (Glenn) has trained there."
Despite Gillett's scratching, Seibold may still opt for Glenn's experience at centre, with the Broncos coach mindful of Hopoate's outstanding form and the potential damage he could do to a rookie rival.
Should Glenn start at left centre, David Fifita would be promoted into the back row, with 18th man Rhys Kennedy likely to join the interchange bench.
"We thought Herbie did a good job (against the Warriors) and he has played a bit of centre at Norths," Seibold said.
"But we don't want to put too much pressure on Herbie.
"It is a big challenge - Hopoate has been outstanding.
"He has probably been, from what I can see, the Bulldogs' most consistent player. Hopoate has been averaging around 180 metres in recent games, so he is a real handful.
"Whoever it is, Herbie or Alex, they have a big job to do."
The Broncos are languishing in 13th place, three competition points adrift of eighth-placed Penrith, but Seibold downplayed talk of Brisbane missing the finals.
"I haven't given it any thought whatsoever," he said of the playoffs.
"If I did that, I'm not focused on this week's game. I've always had a narrow focus to my coaching.
"I haven't thought about any outcomes at the end of the year.
"I feel as though we are improving as a team. We are focused on this game, it's important in the context of the year."