Broncos boosted by return of "rep-standard" Macca
BRONCOS prop Josh McGuire believes returning hooker Andrew McCullough is so good he wouldn't be out of place in a Maroons jersey.
Of course, that position belongs to Queensland legend Cameron Smith right now, but McCullough is someone ready-made to fill that role if Smith gets injured.
McCullough has been a mainstay of the Brisbane forward pack since 2009.
But in his two-week absence due to a hamstring tear against South Sydney in round eight, his side lost to the Sharks before bouncing back to defeat Manly 30-6 on Saturday night.
With the representative round seeing the Broncos have a week off in between those two games, the tough No.9 is expected back for the blockbuster against the Cowboys at 1300 SMILES Stadium on Friday night.
He was originally tipped to miss up to six weeks, but the 26-year-old's dedication to his rehabilitation was first class.
"He's a rep-standard player," McGuire told Australian Regional Media.
"I pack down in the scrum with him every week and I really enjoy having him next to me, and I feel a bit safer with him there.
"He's a smart operator and he knows how to get around on the paddock."
McGuire's own form has been impressive in his return from last year's season-ending Achilles injury, after he played in the first two Origins in 2015.
"It was pretty hard missing out on one of Queensland's greatest ever wins (in game three last year)," he said.
"If I get the opportunity that'd be something very special. I had a taste last year.
"I've come back from injury and I feel like I've been playing pretty good footy, but it's up to Kev (Queensland coach Kevin Walters) and the selectors."
The past three Broncos-Cowboys games have been decided by six points in total, with Brisbane winning two and the Cowboys last year's stunning grand final in golden point extra-time.
As well as McCullough's return (hamstring tear), the Broncos' pack will be bolstered with prop Adam Blair (suspension) and Alex Glenn (calf) to come back against North Queensland.
Brisbane winger Corey Oates did not train yesterday to attend a funeral, but is expected to play in his final bid for a maiden Maroons jersey.
The Cowboys have named an unchanged line-up for the Queensland derby after their 15-14 loss to Melbourne last Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Eels discard Nathan Peats will dump a massive weight from his shoulders as the Gold Coast's new starting hooker against the Panthers at Pepper Stadium on Sunday.
Peats is a welcome addition for the Titans because back-up utility Daniel Mortimer is sidelined with a hamstring tear.
Manly enforcer Martin Taupau will miss the next three matches after his early guilty plea for a dangerous throw on Brisbane's Matt Gillett last round.
The Dragons' Joel Thompson accepted the early guilty plea for his third high tackle in eight matches and will miss the game against South Sydney tomorrow night.
Rabbitohs forward Jason Clark was named despite receiving more than 20 stitches to his forehead against the Eels last Friday night.
Parramatta pair Beau Scott and Isaac De Gois took early guilty pleas for tripping charges from that game.
That means they are free to play Melbourne on Monday night.
Tigers fullback Justin Hunt also avoided suspension for his spectacular high shot on the Bulldogs' Moses Mbye, after entering an early guilty plea.