Sei-bold gamble for Broncos’ opener
Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold is set to take a round-one gamble with Jamayne Isaako to be benched and the son of John Hopoate on the cusp of his NRL debut.
The Courier-Mail understands Isaako will be Brisbane's supersub after being axed from fullback, while Jamil Hopoate is within sight of his Broncos debut for the season-opener against the Cowboys on Friday week.
Six years after spending time in jail for a vicious assault, the 25-year-old Hopoate is on standby for skipper Alex Glenn, who is racing the clock to recover from a niggling hamstring injury.
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Isaako, meanwhile, is shaping as Brisbane's backline utility on the interchange bench, a surprise move given that Seibold had declared the Kiwi Test ace the frontrunner for the fullback spot at the start of pre-season.
But Jack Bird's impressive form in the trials, coupled with Isaako's frustrating pre-season with limited opportunities, has convinced Seibold to go with the former Sharks centre in the No.1 jumper.
Seibold will also hand a Broncos debut to Jesse Arthars, an off-season recruit from the Titans who has clinched a right-wing berth following a sizzling pre-season headlined by two tries against the Cowboys.
The Broncos coach confirmed players have been informed of their selection for round one. Seibold will name a 21-man squad this Tuesday, with Hopoate to debut at the Cowboys' shiny new $250 million stadium if Glenn decides to rest another week.
The NRL refused to register Hopoate for 12 months after his prison stint in 2014, but since joining the Broncos, the hard-running back-rower has been dominant for feeder club Redcliffe.
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If Glenn is ruled out, Tevita Pangai Jr will start in the back row and Tom Flegler will replace Matt Lodge (knee) up front, leaving a likely bench of Isaako, Hopoate, Andrew McCullough and Rhys Kennedy.
Seibold told The Courier-Mail that Hopoate is in the mix for his Broncos debut, while he is considering deploying Isaako off the bench.
"Yes, Jamayne can definitely play a role on the bench, he has good utility value," he said.
"We won't finalise our squad until we know about the availability of Alex, but we'll take no risks.
"Jamil is a good option (to replace Glenn). He is ready to play first grade, it's been a while coming, there's been some challenges (with his stint in jail) but he's been a standout. He is certainly in contention."
Seibold said the classy Arthars had done enough to edge out 18-year-old Xavier Coates for the right-wing spot.
"Jesse has been fantastic," he said. "He has trialled really well so there's not much more he can do. He will be there somewhere for sure."
LIKELY TEAM: Jack Bird, Corey Oates, Darius Boyd, Kotoni Staggs, Jesse Arthars, Anthony Milford, Brodie Croft, Tevita Pangai Jr, Jake Turpin, Payne Haas, David Fifita, Alex Glenn (c), Pat Carrigan. Bench: Jamayne Isaako, Andrew McCullough, Tom Flegler, Rhys Kennedy. 18th man: Jamil Hopoate.