Pangai Jr back to boost Broncos
THE Broncos have received a boost with strike forward Tevita Pangai Jr cleared of injury for Thursday night's Queensland derby against the Cowboys in Townsville.
Pangai Jr was considered at long odds to overcome a groin complaint, but the rampaging forward has received the green light from medicos after completing Brisbane's captain's run on Wednesday at Red Hill.
It is a huge fillip for the Broncos, who are perilously positioned in seventh spot and need to dispose of the struggling Cowboys to stay in finals contention on a night when Sam Thaiday will celebrate his 300th game for Brisbane.
Thaiday joins Darren Lockyer (355) and Corey Parker (347) as the only Broncos players to reach the triple century in the club's decorated 30-year history.
"It's wonderful for Sam and remarkable for us as a club to have three 300-game players," Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said.
"He was terrified when he first came here, he came from Townsville and we had a lot of stars here at that time like Shane Webcke, Petero (Civoniceva) and Brad Thorn.
"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.
"It's a real credit, the role Sam has played this year. He has found his niche and he has been one of our better players. But he knows it is time for him to go, his body has reached that point, but he has made thousands of tackles and runs for us and he is respected by us all."
While Thaiday notches his 300th game, the Broncos will parade another debutant, with 20-year-old Gehamat Shibasaki to start at left centre in place of Jordan Kahu.
The well-built Shibasaki has represented the Queensland under-20s and Bennett backed the hard-running centre to handle the pressure of a Queensland derby.
"Gehamat has come through the system here, he is a good player, we all rate him highly," Bennett said.
"He is a big powerful fella and willing so he will be good, he won't let us down."
Bennett challenged the Broncos to hit back after last week's woeful loss to the lowly Bulldogs.
"Every bottom-eight team we have played this year, we just haven't aimed up," he said.
"That's the dynamics of the group, but that won't be the case tomorrow night. No-one will be looking at the Cowboys where they are on the table, we have played them too many times to know how much they want to beat us.
"It's about the 11th or 12th derby since I've come back and every one is a tough encounter.
"They are played in a great spirit and they will be at their best tomorrow night, they bring out the best in us and we bring the best out in them. It will be another one of those games to see who wins it.
"We need to get back playing well and executing and doing the things that we know work for us. If we do that, winning looks after itself.
"When we have done it properly this year we have won. We lost our way last week and when we don't have that energy, we'll always get that result."