In a huge selection gamble, Gold Coast could field a rookie halves pairing for Friday’s NRL derby against heavyweight rivals Brisbane.
The lack of depth in the Titans halves means 22-year-old Broncos discard Cameron Cullen could be thrown into his first NRL game with Tyrone Roberts ruled out with bone bruising on his knee.
An off-season recruit who spent his junior years at Brisbane, Cullen is firmly in the running to debut alongside four-game youngster Ash Taylor in the Titans’ halves.
The only other option for coach Neil Henry is shifting veteran Greg Bird from lock to five-eighth, a move which brings complications of its own.
“We’ll just need to look more at what our pack looks like if we were to shift Birdie,” Henry said on Thursday.
“I know Eddy Pettybourne’s back in there but Birdie’s role around that lock, roaming both sides of the field, is pretty handy for us.”
While confident Cullen is ready for first grade, Henry knows it would be a huge risk to go with such an inexperienced halves pairing against Brisbane’s in-form duo of Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford.
Milford has been sensational in the opening rounds, scoring four tries, picking up four try assists and landing three field-goals including a game-winner in golden point against North Queensland last weekend.
Hunt heads down the Pacific Motorway with a solid personal record against the Titans having scored two tries and set up another three in his past four games against the Gold Coast.
Despite his team’s impressive start to the year, Henry knows he must make the right selection call against a Brisbane team many view as the best in the competition.
The Broncos also head south with a full complement of players with Corey Oates and Jack Reed back from injury.
“What they’ve been able to do is keep pretty well their side together for a long period of time,” Henry said.
“They’ll be seamless.
“We’ve still got a lot of new combinations in our team. We’re finding our feet a little bit … it’s a big change up for us.”
Gold Coast at least head into the derby with co-captain Nathan Friend after he missed last week’s win over Canberra, while prop Ryan James is available after beating a dangerous contact charge at the judiciary on Wednesday night.
GOLD COAST v BRISBANE – Key match stats
* Brisbane dominate this derby with 14 wins in the 19 times these clubs have met, including five victories at Robina.
* Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford has four tries, four try assists and three field goals in an electric start to 2016.
* Ex-Titan James Roberts has scored 12 tries in 18 games at Robina and has four tries in two appearances against the Gold Coast.