Broncos forced to call up rookie winger
EXCITING young winger Jonus Pearson will play the biggest game of his life after being rushed into Brisbane's side for tomorrow night's elimination final against the Gold Coast.
Coach Wayne Bennett was forced to reshuffle his backline after promising centre prospect Tom Opacic was ruled out of the local derby clash with a shoulder injury that will require surgery, although it will not stop him playing if Brisbane go deeper into the finals.
"Tom won't play, he's carrying a shoulder injury and he is not good enough for this weekend,” said Bennett, who will move Jordan Kahu to left centre and play the athletic 21-year-old Pearson on the right wing.
While it will be a big set-back for his Queensland Cup club side Redcliffe, which is playing in the Intrust Super Cup finals, Pearson will get an unexpected opportunity to build on his round-23, two-try debut against Parramatta, when he made two tackle busts and ran for 100 metres.
Pearson has been compared to former Brisbane winger Jharal Yow Yeh, whose career was prematurely ended by a horrible ankle injury after he delivered on his debut with two tries.
Former Broncos firebrand winger Michael Hancock, who made his debut as a tearaway teenager, said Pearson's debut suggested he could be a special player.
"Not too many players do what he did on debut,” said Hancock, who scored 120 tries in 274 games for Brisbane and played for Queensland and Australia.
"I've been watching him play for Redcliffe and he's a talent.”
Bennett's plan was to give Pearson a taste of first grade and then bring him up next season but those plans have been fast-tracked with Opacic's injury.
"He's confident and he has some good skills,” said the coach.
"It was timely that he had his debut a few weeks ago so at least he has been there.”
Titans enforcer Greg Bird said his team has felt like "underdogs” all year and it would be no different against Brisbane.
"Nobody expected us to make the semis and nobody expects us to go to Suncorp and get a win,” said Bird, whose aggression and pressure on Brisbane halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford will be a key factor.
Bird, who will lead from the front, tipped some fire and aggression from both sets of forwards to set the tone in the opening 15 minutes.
"You have to start with aggression and be physical, fight fire with fire. We've got a few blokes who like the aggression,” he said.
"They're not going to die wondering and Sammy Thaiday has been a massive leader for them and likes to play aggressively, so I'm sure it will be a lively battle in the middle.
"It's well-publicised we haven't been in this (finals) position since 2010 and none of the guys were here then so it's a really good opportunity for us to give something to our fans.”
Crowds have been returning to Titans games since the club signed Jarryd Hayne and they reportedly had 500 turn up for one of their training sessions.