Crisis point: Another injury blow for Broncos
Brisbane's playmaking stocks have hit crisis point with halfback Tom Dearden ruled out for the season in the lead-up to the Broncos' grudge match against Wayne Bennett's Souths on Friday night.
Just 24 hours after Tevita Pangai Jr and Jake Turpin were charged by the NRL, The Courier-Mail can reveal that Dearden will not return this year in another blow to Brisbane's finals charge.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold is set to be on the lookout for a new halfback for the Rabbitohs' visit to Suncorp Stadium, with makeshift No. 7 Turpin facing a two-match ban for striking in Brisbane's 24-12 Round 22 home defeat of Penrith on Friday night.
The 18-year-old Dearden, who made his NRL debut against Souths in Round 8, was one option to replace Turpin, but his scratching has left the Broncos scrambling for scrumbase alternatives.
Dearden damaged his ankle against the Titans in Round 13 and suffered a fresh setback in his Intrust Super Cup comeback a fortnight ago.
It is believed Seibold has decided to place the teenager in cotton wool for the rest of the season for the sake of his long-term welfare to prepare him for action in 2020.
Seibold is set to issue an SOS for fellow rookie Sean O'Sullivan, who has played four first-grade games and would face the biggest test of his embryonic career trying to bring down the Bunnies.
O'Sullivan has not appeared in the top grade since injuring his hamstring in the Baby Broncos' 24-22 away defeat of the Sharks in Round 16.
Brisbane are clinging on for their finals lives in seventh spot and will likely require a new scrumbase combination to entrench their place in the top eight against the Bunnies as Bennett returns to face the Broncos club that sacked him in December.
While Turpin has been a makeshift option at halfback following injuries to Dearden and O'Sullivan, the hooker has lost just once in seven weeks since his move to the halves.
The Broncos will sorely miss Turpin's rock-solid defence and competitive fire, and with injuries and suspensions decimating Brisbane's squad, Seibold is hoping that O'Sullivan can form a slick union with five-eighth Darius Boyd.
Turpin is likely to miss two matches, while Pangai Jr could be rubbed out for the rest of the season.
Seibold started analysing footage of the Rabbitohs on Friday and refuses to talk finals footy as he focuses solely on the Souths club he coached to the top four last year.
"I'm not even going to think about the finals," he said. "I'm really pleased with how we are building.''
Of Souths, who suffered a shock 14-6 loss to the visiting Bulldogs on Saturday night, Seibold said: "I've watched a fair bit of them. I have a good feel for how they play their footy, not a lot has changed from an attacking point of view from what I can see from last year … they throw plenty at you."