Brisbane will turn to rookie Jonus Pearson for Friday’s blockbuster final with North Queensland after James Roberts was suspended at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night.
Pearson is expected to come into Wayne Bennett’s 17 for the latest chapter in the Broncos-Cowboys rivalry after Roberts was given a one-match ban for contrary conduct.
The Broncos failed in their bid to have Roberts cleared after being cited for striking at Gold Coast’s Ryan Simpkins with his boot during Friday’s fiery elimination final win over the Titans .
Pearson, who was earlier this year likened to former Broncos and Australian winger Jharal Yow Yeh, was named as 18th man on Tuesday and is expected to come into the run-on side with Jordan Kahu to shift into the centres.
It will be Pearson’s third game of first grade and a big assignment coming up against a dangerous Cowboys backline.
However, North Queensland coach Paul Green has his own headache with centre Kane Linnett not named because of a strained calf.
While last year’s Dally M centre of the year Roberts has been relatively quiet by his standards this season, he had arguably his best game of 2016 against the Titans last Friday.
He came up with a crucial linebreak to set up Kahu’s controversial first-half penalty try and threatened to find open space on a number of occasions.
“There’s no player I like to see in open space more than James Roberts,” skipper Corey Parker said after the game.
“The pleasing thing for him is he’s probing and he made that happen and good things come off the back of that for us.”
The match review committee – which has come under fire in recent weeks – did not charge Roberts with kicking, arguing there was insufficient evidence to warrant a kicking charge but cited him for contrary conduct.
Roberts’ defence counsel Nick Ghabar argued that his client was simply trying to push off Simpkins with his legs and play the ball after being held down and wrestled in the tackle.
But the judiciary panel of Mal Cochrane, Bob Lindner and Sean Garlick took just six minutes to find Roberts guilty, meaning the Broncos must beat the Cowboys if Roberts is to play again this year.