Cronulla haven’t scored a point in three matches and are the NRL’s worst attacking team in 18 years, but Brisbane are on guard for a Suncorp upset.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin believes cellar dwellers Cronulla will provide State of Origin candidates Josh McGuire and Dale Copley with perfect auditions for Queensland selection.
The last-placed Sharks haven’t scored a point in their past three losses and are the NRL’s worst attacking team in 18 years, but Griffin warns they are fired up for a Suncorp Stadium boilover on Friday night.
“If there’s a time for Cronulla to be at their best, it’s tomorrow night,” he said.
“They have four or five Origin players in there, they’re hungry and they have been copping a pasting from the media so we’re certainly not going in there with anything but knowing we need to play our best game of football.”
Griffin pointed to the likes of Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis, Anthony Tupou and “star in the making” hooker Michael Lichaa in a Sharks pack that presented a major danger.
Cronulla, who have averaged only 12 points per game, also have halfback Jeff Robson returning from injury to partner Todd Carney in the halves against a Broncos side missing Corey Parker, Matt Gillett and Andrew McCullough.
“They’re going to be awfully hard to handle tomorrow night,” Griffin said. “It will come down to us being hungrier than them.”
Leading Brisbane’s charge up front will be in-form prop McGuire who is in contention, with Manly’s Brenton Lawrence, to take Matt Scott’s (cheekbone) spot in the Maroons’ front-row for Origin III on July 9.
Out wide, Copley has been anointed by Broncos captain Justin Hodges as his preferred right-side partner to replace injured Queensland winger Brent Tate (knee).
Griffin expected potential Origin debuts would motivate the pair but felt they had to pass a big test at Suncorp Stadium.
“If they’re ready, we will find out tomorrow night,” he said.
Brisbane’s coach praised McGuire, 24, for becoming more consistent in his sixth season in the top grade.
“He’s always had the talent and the athletic qualities that he’s got but, mentally, he’s been able to repeat that on a more consistent level than in the past,” said Griffin, who felt Copley was still finding his way.
“Dale is still learning his trade but he has a good opportunity tomorrow night against a tough football team to put his name forward.”
McCullough (knee) and Gillett (shoulder) are expected to be back following the Broncos’ bye next week while Griffin says Parker (cheekbone) could be fit for Origin III.