Thaiday terrified at first, Bennett says as he pays tribute
BRONCOS coach Wayne Bennett remembers how "terrified" Sam Thaiday was when he rocked up at his first NRL training session at Brisbane as a fresh-faced teenager from up north.
Thaiday will celebrate his 300th match in Thursday night's clash against North Queensland in front of friends and family in his hometown of Townsville.
He will become the third Broncos player to reach the milestone, after Darren Lockyer and Corey Parker, and only the 33rd overall.
Bennett reckons Thaiday's come a long, long way since shedding his reputation as a glorified tackle bag for established players in his early days at Red Hill.
"He was terrified," Bennett said.
"He'd come from Townsville. He came down and obviously we had a lot of stars here at that time like Shane Webcke, Petero (Civoniceva) and (Brad) Thorn and those guys.
"It was a good induction period for him. They used to beat him up every training session.
"It hardened him up and helped him be the player he is today."
Now 33, Thaiday will retire at the end of this season, making the clash at 1300SMILES Stadium the last Broncos-Cowboys derby for himself and former State of Origin teammate Johnathan Thurston.
"He knows it is time for him to go, he realises his body is at that point," Bennett said.
"But he has done multiple thousands of tackles and a lot of carries.
"He's been a great club player and one that's highly regarded and respected by us all."
The Broncos can't afford to slip up, given they sit precariously in seventh position on the ladder after last week's shocking loss to Canterbury.
"Every bottom-eight team we've played, we just haven't aimed up," Bennett said.
"That's the dynamics of the group. But that won't be the case tomorrow night, because no one's looking where (North Queensland) are on the table.
"We've played them too many times - they'll want to beat us and they'll want to play well.
"They bring the best out of us, we bring the best out of them. I think it'll be another one of those games."
The Broncos have been boosted by the availability of Tevita Pangai Jr, who has overcome a groin injury and will start on the bench after training freely on Wednesday.