Young guns to lead suspension-ravaged Broncos
COWBOYS skipper Michael Morgan says he is braced for Joe Ofahengaue to become the leader of a suspension-ravaged Broncos pack in Friday night's NRL Queensland derby.
The determination of Broncos management to discipline Payne Haas with a four-round ban for refusing to co-operate with the NRL integrity unit has had an effect when followed by Matt Lodge's two-week suspension.
The Broncos accepted a two-week ban for Lodge, who took the legs out from Storm kicker Cameron Munster in a 22-12 loss at Melbourne Storm on Thursday night.
The NRL match review committee found no case for Cowboys forward Josh McGuire to answer after he had been penalised for an apparent shoulder charge in North Queensland's 24-12 win over the Dragons on Saturday.
Lodge's obvious replacement in Brisbane's 17-man team for Friday's Suncorp Stadium clash is 2017 Cowboys grand final prop Shaun Fensom, who was the 18th man in the original Round 1 selection and would bring experience to the young forward rotation.
Morgan said he expected Ofahengaue and Tevita Pangai Jr to step up in Lodge's absence.
"Someone will take his place,'' Morgan said.
"Joe Ofahengaue is their forward leader then.
"He and Tevita Pangai Jr are really hard to handle. They are not typically straight up-and-down front rowers - they are skilful, have footwork, can pass and off-load.
"They are coming off a loss so I am sure they will want to come out firing. It's what happened last year too (when Brisbane won a Round 2 derby clash 24-20).''
Pangai had the most run metres, 159m from 18 carries, of Brisbane's forwards against the Storm, followed by Lodge (144) and Ofahengaue (110m from 15 runs).
Morgan's try and two try assists in the first premiership game since the retirement of Johnathan Thurston, will send a flush of confidence through his club.
Despite his effectiveness, the sight of the Cowboys skipper with an elbow heavily strapped for the first game of a six-month season was disconcerting.
"It's no concern,'' Morgan said.
"Just more precaution so I don't straighten it again.
"I accidentally stuck it out early in the game, which is how I tore it last year.''
McGuire's 170m club debut would have created more attention had it not happened in a game in which Jason Taumalolo (301m) broke the 300m mark for his first time.
Morgan said McGuire and the club's two other recruits from the Broncos, Jordan Kahu and Tom Opacic, would be motivated to do well on Friday.
"All the guys who made their debut for our club did really well,'' Morgan said.