Stand-in Brisbane captain Andrew McCullough has urged his teammates not to rely on their returning State of Origin stars to bring an end to their spiralling NRL season.
Four losses in their past five games has seen the Broncos slump to sixth on the ladder – their lowest spot of the year – and be in danger of falling out of the top eight.
In fact, since five Brisbane players were a part of Australia’s shutout Test win over New Zealand in early May, the 2015 grand finalists have won just two of eight matches.
Their most recent match, a 48-6 humiliation to Melbourne, was their heaviest defeat in club history.
Four of the six Maroons who lost to NSW in Origin III on Wednesday are set to back up for Saturday’s clash against South Sydney, with skipper Corey Parker suspended and Matt Gillett (shoulder) in doubt.
However McCullough said it would be dangerous to rely on a post-Origin switch to rectify their campaign.
“You think guys are going to come back in and just make it happen but overall it’s a team performance from 1-17 that needs to pick their act up from the last two months,” he said on Friday.
“We’re confident we can do that, we’ve got a great squad and we’ve been relatively injury-free.”
Assistant coach Stephen Kearney was adamant that wasn’t the attitude the team was carrying into the match.
“All the little things we were doing earlier on in the year – regardless of Origin – we stopped doing those over the last month or so. That’s going to be our focus tomorrow night,” he said.
Jordan Kahu is set to push to centre, with Alex Glenn expected to enter the fray for Gillett in a shuffled line-up that includes Lachlan Maranta added onto the wing.
For the Rabbitohs, skipper Greg Inglis is also out after accepting a three-game ban for his shoulder charge on NSW centre Josh Dugan that resulted in a broken jaw.
His suspension is a huge blow to the 12th-placed Rabbitohs, who need to win seven of their final eight regular season games to hit the traditional 28-point mark and make the finals.
Rookie flyer Australasia Tasi is expected to replace Inglis in the backline for a South Sydney side that includes George Burgess for the first time since round nine and has lost five straight games.
The Broncos defeated the Rabbitohs 30-8 back in round eight.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The past four, and five of the past six, matches between these two sides in Sydney has resulted in a points total of at least 48.
* Brisbane average a league-low 22.7 plays inside the opposition 20-metre zone this season, while the Rabbitohs’s 23.4 is the second lowest.
* The Broncos have failed to score a point in the opening 20 minutes of five of their past six matches.