Matt Gillett says Broncos must improve. Picture: Peter Wallis
Matt Gillett says Broncos must improve. Picture: Peter Wallis

Broncos must fire against depleted Roosters

Matt Gillett says the Broncos have to take back control of their own destiny on Thursday night, regardless of the availability of Sydney Roosters mainstays Cooper Cronk and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson maintains Cronk (hamstring) and Waerea-Hargreaves (ribs) will play in the Sydney Cricket Ground showdown against Brisbane, who are looking for a stabilising win after two losses in the first three rounds.

The Broncos made costly handling errors in their own half to suffer a 25-24 loss to St George Illawarra last Thursday, but an overall 70 per cent completion rate was as costly a factor as any in the outcome.

The Roosters will be without durable hooker Jake Friend (shoulder) but Robinson expects to play Cronk at halfback when they take on the side they were unable to beat in two NRL encounters last year.

"Whether he is in or not, they showed against Manly they can perform without Coops,'' Gillett said.

"It's about what we do right and what we can learn from the Dragons game. We will look at where we can get on top of them.''

Gillett declined to compare the Roosters, who will play either of their versatile forwards Victor Radley or Mitch Aubisson at dummy-half in Friend's absence, favourably with other packs chasing the Roosters' premiership.

"The comp is pretty even among the forward packs. Every team has some big boys,'' Gillett said.

"The Roosters do have a good forward pack and great halves to back it up - and (James) Tedesco out the back as well. There are no small packs and every week is a challenge. We have to do our job as a pack. We have to be better and we also have to remember we've only played three (rounds).''

Jake Friend down with a shoulder injury.
Jake Friend down with a shoulder injury.

Brisbane's recapture of Matt Lodge from suspension against the Roosters adds a likely 100m-plus game from a pack which gained most traction from David Fifita (104m from 11 runs, with three tackle busts, and 31 tackles) and Joe Ofahengaue (118m from 12 runs and 31 tackles) in a physical battle with the Dragons.

Gillett got through 34 tackles in his third premiership match back from a neck injury.

Waerea-Hargreaves, who has a history of confrontations with Broncos, most notably the retired Sam Thaiday, has a rib cartilage injury which is often debilitating, but Robinson is confident the Kiwi international will manage the pain and play a full stint.

Despite two consecutive wins, Robinson said there were aspects of his side's win over Parramatta on Friday, sparked by Test fullback Tedesco, that he did not want to see again at the SCG, their occasional home ground while Allianz Stadium is demolished.

"There were guys who put us in position, but Teddy nailed it,'' Robinson said.