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Bronco rookies have no place to hide

By Wayne Heming 10/03/2011 06:28:38 PM Comments (0)

Brisbane rookies Jack Reed and Dane Gagai have been warned there will be "no place to hide" against a North Queensland side determined to ruin their NRL debuts at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

In last year's corresponding season-opener the Cowboys tried to target Bronco rookie Corey Norman, hoping the inexperienced teenager would lose his nerve and crack under pressure.

The tactics backfired with Norman, who'd taken over Karmichael Hunt's fullback role, figuring in three tries, making last ditch tackles and being voted man-of-the-match.

Cowboys assistant coach and former Broncos premiership player Peter Ryan said on Thursday the Cowboys would not be hunting Reed or Gagai.

But he admitted if the pair struggled with the atmosphere and occasion in front of 45,000 fans they would be "exploited".

"Those guys are in first grade because they can play," said Ryan, who played more than 150 games for Brisbane.

"But playing in front of 45,000, if they come unstuck with nerves on the night, then obviously we'll exploit it although we won't be going out to target them."

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin may be a rookie but he knows the temptation to test the nerves of his two newcomers will be irresistible to the likes of representative centre Willie Tonga and scheming No.7 Johnathan Thurston.

"It's just something they have got to get through and we've got to help them," said Griffin.

"I'm sure they're going to try and get Willie Tonga onto Jack Reed as much as they can and also test Dane out.

"They've got to handle it, there's no place for them to hide."

Griffin could have selected players in those two positions with NRL experience in a safety first approach but he trusts Reed and Gagai to get the job done.

"Dane is a winger and we hope he's got speed and flair and is safe under the high ball," said Griffin.

"Jack's job is to look after Willie Tonga first.

"I've got no issue with either of them not being ready."

Brisbane won last year's clash 30-24 on the back of a try to speedster Denan Kemp, maintaining a run of tense finishes since they started opening the season against each other.

The Cowboys have undergone some player changes after a dismal 2010.

Unfortunately they will take the field without Test centre Brent Tate and fellow off-season pick-up Antonio Winterstein who are still recovering from major injuries.

While they'll start underdogs, they have enough talent up front with Matt Scott, Aaron Payne and tackling machine Dallas Johnson to make sure Thurston, Ray Thompson, Tonga and a rejuvenated Matt Bowen get opportunities to test Brisbane's defence.

From all reports, Bowen, who has battled knee issues for three seasons, is primed to return to his attacking best.

If that's the case, he and Thurston will be a handful for any side in 2011.

Ryan has been impressed with what he's seen of Bowen who's waged a battle to regain his attacking brilliance after undergoing a second knee operation.

"Matty looks wonderful," said Ryan.

"He looks as fast as he's ever been and his defence has been excellent."

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