RUGBY LEAGUE: Rookie Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin says he’s uncertain how much more his players can ramp it up for the NRL finals after seeing off two recent character tests
“I’m not sure, that’s the mystery question I guess,” said Griffin after Melbourne, Manly and the late-charging Wests Tigers and South Sydney all posted warning wins on the weekend.
While he unsure how much throttle is left, Griffin sees many areas where his players can improve to meet the pressure and intensity of the coming weeks.
“We were a touch loose defensively,” admitted Griffin, after North Queensland found some holes up the middle during Friday night’s 34-16 win.
“We got opened up a couple of times on the weekend and our support play can still improve in the middle.
“Without getting into them all, there’s a lot of areas we can improve and that we need to keep working hard at.
“That’s the mystery of this time of the year with the stakes so high and everyone chasing a finals spot, you just don’t know where you’re going to end up.”
Second spot is still a lure for the third-placed Broncos if they dispose of Newcastle and the Rabbitohs in the next fortnight to set up a grandstand finish against Manly in Darren Lockyer’s Farewell to the Fans Day at Suncorp Stadium on September 4.
One of the challenges for Brisbane’s young roster will be to not get too far ahead and start thinking about the Manly blockbuster before the games against Newcastle, locked in battle with the Warriors and Wests Tigers on 26 point, and South Sydney, ninth and needing to win their last three games to be an outside chance of finals action.
“It (Manly) is only a big prize if we do the job next Monday night against Newcastle,” said Griffin.
“It’s a massive game and that’s all we’re thinking about, not where we’re going to finish (on the ladder).
“The last two weeks we’ve played two quality sides who’ve played very well against us and we’ve been able to come through.
“The more of those games we’re involved in the better prepared we will be come the finals.”
Representative prop Ben Hannant is no certainty to return from a hip injury and given the eye-catching effort of his replacement Josh McGuire against Cowboys frontrower Matt Scott, he won’t be rushed back early.
“Ben will probably train late in the week and do some contact work,” said Griffin, hugely impressed with McGuire’s big-hearted starting effort to play 40 minutes against the Cowboys without a break after a very strong display against the Warriors the previous week.
“He (Hannant) is a rough chance to play but we’re probably targeting the Souths game with him.
“He’s more advanced than what we thought he’d be so he is a chance but we won’t be taking any risks with him.”
Winger Jharal Yow Yeh seems certain to return after missing Lockyer’s 350th game in Townsville.