12th August 2020, 15:30 | nrl
Canberra’s English second-rower Elliott Whitehead has expressed sympathy for his Brisbane rivals as they battle a season of seemingly never-ending dramas similar to his final year with Bradford Bulls.
While there is no doubt about the future of the NRL’s biggest club, the Broncos season has been described as a “train wreck” by director and club legend Darren Lockyer.
Not only have Brisbane lost 10 of their last 11 matches, but coach Anthony Seibold and three of his staff, including Broncos great Allan Langer, have been stood down and Tonga international Tavita Pangai Jnr is suspended indefinitely.
Another loss against Whitehead’s Raiders on Saturday would put Brisbane in serious danger of the club’s first wooden spoon and increase doubts over the future of Seibold, who has been quarantined for 14 days after leaving the team bubble to deal with a family emergency.
Langer and the other staff members are also isolating following breaches of the NRL’s strict biosecurity rules, while Pangai may have played his last game for Brisbane after being fined $30,000 and stood down indefinitely for attending the launch of a barber shop.
Assistant coach Peter Gentle, who had charge of Hull FC in 2012 and 2013, is deputising for Seibold.
Whitehead said the circumstances in Brisbane were different to his time at Bradford when the 1895 foundation club was placed into administration but he felt for the Broncos players as they coped with one crisis after another.
"It is hard, especially in those situations,” Whitehead said. “It was a bit different to what Brisbane is going through at the moment but when I was at Bradford you didn't know whether you were going to get paid or whether the club was going to survive and you would see the season out.
"I think those situations are a little bit different to Brisbane at the moment but it is difficult for them. People have families and mortgages to pay at the end of the day, and it is hard to focus on your job on the field when you don't know what is happening.”
After a 28-12 loss to competition leaders Penrith last weekend, the Raiders have dropped to outright fifth place and Whitehead said the team, which also features fellow Englishman John Bateman, George Williams and Ryan Sutton would not underestimate the Broncos.
"They have started their games pretty well and dropped off at the back end so our main focus will be on starting well this week and holding on,” Whitehead said.
"They have had a lot of distractions so I am sure they are going to come down here and want to get the win, and get those distractions off them.”
At the other end of the ladder, Sydney Roosters will continue their campaign to become the first team in NRL history to win three successive premierships against Melbourne on Thursday with Wigan coach Adrian Lam’s son, Lachlan, at halfback.
Lam made his first appearance in the No.7 Roosters jersey his father wore on 146 occasions during last weekend’s 32-24 defeat of St George Illawarra and coach Trent Robinson said it was now his to lose.
Robinson confirmed Lam, who has signed a new two-year contract, had been offered the chance to join his father at Wigan but wanted to stay and battle Kyle Flanagan for the halfback role.
“He is a local kid and he loves the Roosters,” Robinson said. “He has had opportunities to go but he wants to stay and wants to fight for his position. He wasn’t going to wait for an opportunity, he was going to grasp one and that’s what you want.”
The Roosters will be boosted by the arrival of Sonny Bill Williams on Thursday after completing a 14-day quarantine with his family following their decision to return to Australia when Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the Super League competition.
In other Round 14 matches, the Warriors will take on the Panthers on Friday night in their first match since the appointment of former St Helens and Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown for the next three seasons.
Parramatta, who are just one point behind the top-of-the-table Panthers, host St George Illawarra on Friday night amid speculation Dragons coach Paul McGregor is set to be the fourth NRL mentor sacked this season.
The Sharks will be fighting to retain their place in the top against Justin Holbrook’s rejuvenated Gold Coast Titans on Saturday, ahead of the clash between North Queensland and Tom Burgess’s South Sydney Rabbitohs.
With former England mentor Wayne Bennett in isolation after breaching COVID-19 restrictions, Souths will be coached by Jason Demetriou, who played 267 matches for Lancashire Lynx, Rochdale, Widnes and Wakefield before beginning his coaching career with Keighley in 2011.
Newcastle host Manly on Sunday, while Michael Maguire’s Wests Tigers complete the round against Canterbury Bulldogs side, which includes England prop Luke Thompson.