Broncos flirt with Thaiday as hooker
THE NRL could still fine Dragons coach Paul McGregor for blasting match officials as “embarrassing” and “incompetent” following his side’s shock loss to Newcastle.
McGregor didn’t hide his disappointment about two contentious calls after the eighth- placed Dragons fell to the bottom- placed Knights on Saturday. In the first half the referees bunker ruled Jason Nightingale knocked the ball forward in the lead- up to a potential try to Tim Lafai, while Tyson Frizell was penalised for holding back Trent Hodkinson before a runaway four- pointer to Nene Macdonald.
McGregor is expected to meet with referees boss Tony Archer in the coming days. NRL referees boss Tony Archer has defended his official’s decision not to stop play when a concussed Adam Reynolds was down during South Sydney’s loss to Canberra.
Reynolds was floored by an apparent high shot from Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson in the second half on Saturday, but the referee ruled play on.
Rabbitohs teammate Angus Crichton was subsequently sinbinned for a professional foul after a resulting line break.
Archer insisted the correct protocols were followed to ensure the welfare of injured players. “After reviewing the specifics of this incident, my view is these protocols were followed correctly by the officials,” Archer said yesterday. WAYNE Bennett could spring a selection shock and thrust Sam Thaiday into hooker to stiffen up Brisbane’s defence and secure the Broncos a top- four finish.
And winger Corey Oates is on the verge of returning from a serious infection to boost the Broncos in the run to the finals.
While Ben Hunt is favoured to replace injured No. 9 Andrew McCullough, Thaiday spent parts of yesterday’s training session at dummyhalf and could be injected from the bench at hooker.
Hunt and Thaiday may rotate in Saturday night’s derby against the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, a game the Broncos must win to stay in the congested top- four race.
Sporting a knee brace and crutches, McCullough made an appearance at Red Hill, speaking to Hunt and Thaiday at the completion of the high- intensity session.
Bennett is expected to name Hunt at hooker today but prop Korbin Sims said Thaiday could be a handy replacement at dummy- half.
“N No one can replicate Macca but Ben’s very crafty and smart,” he said.
“If he picks a spot he wants to run or pass, I will back him 100 per cent. Moving into the hooking role shouldn’t be a worry because he knows all the plays as well.
“Sam knows how the team plays and he has a lot of ex- perience.p He has a crisp pass which he would be able to use out of dummy- half.
“We’ve got a good system h here where if one player slots out, another slots straight back in. They know their role and what to do.”
A Thaiday cameo at dummy- half would be a leftfield move by the seven- time premiership- winning coach.
But the 32- year- old forward’s passing game looked slick at training yesterday and Hunt has had plenty of experience at hooker.
He has played 66 NRL games from the bench, coming on mostly at hooker, but also starting two matches in the role.
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer said Thaiday’s defence in the middle could prove handy.
“First and foremost you need someone that can handle the defensive workload in there,” he said.
“Sam isn’t a natural dummy- half but defensively he will handle the workload.
“We’ve got a few options. Hunty has played there before. Josh McGuire has played hooker for Samoa.
“There is no clear- cut replacement. The coach will probably want to run with an option, see how it goes and, if it works, keep it there. If it doesn’t, he will have to think of other options.”
Oates, who last played in Round 16 against Canberra, completed most of the session.
If he emerges from Brisbane’s next two sessions unscathed, the towering winger will face the Titans a few weeks after a stay in hospital with a staph infection that threatened to end his season.
UNCONVENTIONAL OPTION: Sam Thaiday training at dummy- half; ( below) Thaiday, Wayne Bennett, an injured Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt.