Brisbane are steeling themselves for Wigan to bring the same “aggressive mentality” in a rematch of the World Club Series duel which helped solidify the Broncos’ premiership hopes last season.
Wigan, blessed with a bruising forward pack, attempted to bully Brisbane off the park at DW Stadium last February – but Wayne Bennett’s men resisted the onslaught and survived to pull out a memorable golden point victory.
The players believe that tough win, and the week of team-building in chilly England which preceded it, set the platform for their stunning success in 2015 which ended with them falling agonisingly short of grand final glory.
It’s why they jumped at the chance to return for the second incarnation of the World Club Series, where they will again be hosted by Wigan for Saturday’s fixture (Sunday 0700 AEDT).
“It was hugely beneficial for us last year. We took it as a real positive,” hooker Andrew McCullough told AAP.
Wigan’s forwards will this year include enforcer Ben Flower, who is best known in the southern hemisphere for his wild attack on Lance Hohaia in the 2014 Super League grand final which left the former New Zealand international unconscious.
His presence will certainly be felt by a Brisbane pack which carried itself impressively last season, which McCullough also put down to the hard graft put in in England.
“Any players playing for Wigan are going to have that aggressive mentality and that’s a good test for us,” he said.
“It put us in good stead to start the year physically in our competition as well.
“Last year the conditions didn’t suit the backs too much so you know for myself and plenty of the boys up front it got us in the contact and put us in good stead for the year.
“That’s the contest you want to see at this time of year. I know we’re taking it very seriously.
“We want to be able to prepare for our season just as they want to keep their momentum of their season going.”
McCullough, 26, is viewed as a future Broncos captain and has earned the support of teammates Sam Thaiday and Ben Hunt, who have both pushed his case to coach Wayne Bennett.
Brisbane will announce their skipper prior to round one, with Corey Parker the strong favourite to take over from the retired Justin Hodges.
McCullough admits he covets any additional leadership roles within the team.
“I certainly do – I believe it brings out the best in my game,” he said.
“Obviously being in the middle and being able to communicate with the forwards that just sort of happens anyway.”