Tevita Pangai Jnr faces the toughest test of his career against the Cowboys.
Tevita Pangai Jnr faces the toughest test of his career against the Cowboys.

Thaiday passes torch to Broncos’ Gen Next

WAYNE Bennett ushered in a brave new era for the Broncos by benching Sam Thaiday and handing Tevita Pangai Jnr the biggest test of his career against a monster Cowboys pack.

The winds of change have officially swept through Red Hill with Bennett admitting Pangai Jnr will face a brutal baptism of front-row fire in Friday night's Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium.

Bennett was expected to start with Thaiday at prop against the Cowboys to ensure his 280 games of NRL experience could ease the pressure on controversial young bookend Matt Lodge.

But Bennett will take one of the biggest selection gambles of his 42-year coaching career, adamant Pangai Jnr, 22, can handle Cowboys big boppers Matt Scott, Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean.

Pangai Jnr and Lodge have started just six NRL games between them, but Bennett says it's time for Brisbane's posse of young forwards to muscle up - starting in the 2015 grand-final replay.

"It's a huge test for Tevita - the Cowboys will teach him everything first grade is about," Bennett said.

"Tevita has been coming off the bench for the past two years, he's played some state league... well now he is going to the next level.

"We need to fill Sam's place next year when he retires and he's at a stage in his career now where he's more suited to the bench.

The 113kg giant is being groomed as a ‘10-year’ Bronco.
The 113kg giant is being groomed as a ‘10-year’ Bronco.

"Sam still has a lot to offer this club and I want him to offer that.

"As a coach, I have to coach for the present, but at the same time I am coaching for the future.

"That's how it works at this club, the young guys eventually have to stand up.

"There is a process here and Tevita has been part of that process. His form is good - I have faith in him."

After 33 games in two seasons off the bench, Pangai Jnr started for the first time against the Dragons last week.

Sam Thaiday has been benched for the second round clash.
Sam Thaiday has been benched for the second round clash.

While Brisbane crashed to a dismal 34-12 defeat, the former Canberra rookie was a standout, clinching the players' player award with his energetic running in attack and hungry attitude in defence.

A former Junior Kangaroos captain, the 113kg prop is tipped to be a 10-year Bronco and Thaiday revealed he is content to pass the starting baton to Pangai Jnr.

"It's a great reward for Tevita," he said.

"Wayne wanted to reward him for the game he played (against the Dragons), he ran hard and worked hard.

"I'm more than happy to take a step back and promote these young guys.

"I am happy to run off the back of them, they are the future of our club.

"We have some good young forwards coming through and Tevita has grown in confidence since the World Cup with Tonga. Tevita is really standing up, he just has to stay consistent with it.

"I am going to have to take a step back and play whatever role I'm asked and I'm okay with that."



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