Broncos pack must fire up in Haas’s absence: Petero

Joel Gould |

Brisbane prop Xavier Willison (2-l) has a big role to play in the absence of front-rower Payne Haas.
Brisbane prop Xavier Willison (2-l) has a big role to play in the absence of front-rower Payne Haas.

Brisbane legend Petero Civoniceva has challenged the forward pack to step up in the absence of inspirational prop Payne Haas and do him proud.

Broncos starting prop Fletcher Baker said the pack “got found out” in the 34-12 loss to Penrith where Haas missed the first week of what is expected to be up to six weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.

On Friday night the Broncos host undefeated North Queensland, who boast starting powerhouse middle forwards Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean and Reuben Cotter.

Haas has won five consecutive player-of-the-year awards at the Broncos and is irreplaceable on one level.

Civoniceva, one of the best props to lace a boot, said Brisbane must embrace the challenge after winning just one of their opening three games.

“It is a notable loss when you have someone like Payne out of the forward pack but I think it is an exciting opportunity for everyone to step up and share the workload,” Civoniceva told AAP.

“It is a huge workload at that, but it is a chance for guys like Fletcher Baker and some of our young forwards to press their claims. It is a long season ahead. Injuries will happen but as a forward pack it is about sharing the load and I have no doubt they will do that.”

Civoniceva said he liked the front-row mix of 21-year-old Xavier Willison off the bench and starting veteran Corey Jensen.

“I was fortunate to have met Xavier when he came into the system and he is a great young player with a huge future,” Civoniceva said.

“I have seen glimpses in his performances that suggest a real X-factor.

“Corey is one of those guys the young blokes can learn a lot off. He is super consistent and in moments like this he is an integral part of us being able to handle the loss of Payne.

“The senior players in the pack will know their responsibility and I have no doubt they will be fine.”

Former Sydney Roosters prop Baker will play his 50th NRL game on Friday night.

He was below his best against the Panthers. Bench forward Kobe Hetherington was outstanding with his intensity and impact, but he showed up the other forwards who made little impact.

“Last week is behind us now and we didn’t play our best football,” Baker said.

“It was against the top team. We got found out there, but the Cowboys are a good challenge for us as well and we’re looking to bounce back.”

Second-rower Brendan Piakura will miss the Cowboys showdown with an ankle injury and will be replaced by Jaiyden Hunt. Veteran Corey Oates comes on to the bench in a utility role in place of prop Martin Taupau who has been dropped.