The death of a friend ensured Andrew McCullough was a training no show on Tuesday but the Broncos hooker is expected to run out for Sunday’s crunch NRL clash against St George Illawarra.
Alarm bells were ringing when McCullough was not sighted at Brisbane’s afternoon session along with the club’s resting Origin contingent of skipper Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges, Matt Gillett and Corey Parker.
However, a Broncos official revealed McCullough had been granted compassionate leave after learning upon completing the morning training session that a friend had died from an illness.
But the Broncos official remained hopeful that McCullough would play after being named as starting rake for their first afternoon home game in more than 12 months.
Along with Brisbane’s Origin contingent, ex-Test prop Ben Hannant was named in the starting side after overcoming a long running calf complaint.
Last round’s frustrating 18-all draw in Newcastle marked only Hannant’s second game in 12 weeks.
He earns a rare starting front-row berth alongside the in-form Josh McGuire after Mitchell Dodds succumbed to a knee injury.
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin brought ex-Sydney Rooster Lama Tasi into the 17 and named three more forwards on an extended bench – Scott Anderson, Jarrod Wallace and Nick Slyney.
The 12th-placed Brisbane must win their final five games to have any hope of remaining in the top eight mix.
Broncos utility David Stagg said that was enough to give his side a glimmer of hope ahead of the Dragons clash.
“We are still in a position where we are a chance,” he said.
“We will just keep putting our best foot forward and start by getting the result we need this weekend.”
Still, speculation swirling around Brisbane has focussed on next season after Bulldogs superstar Ben Barba and Canberra rising star Anthony Milford were linked to the club.
It would be a welcome selection headache for Griffin who would need to find another backline option for his in-form fullback Josh Hoffman if the two star No.1s lobbed next year.
But Stagg would not speculate on their arrival no matter how exciting the prospect.
“You know more than I do obviously,” Stagg said.
“There is plenty of speculation at the moment but that is something for 2014 – we still have 2013 to finish off.
“There is still a lot for us to achieve before we start worrying about that.”
Former Queensland utility Stagg was not so coy on his own future, saying he was keen to run around again in 2014.
“I have not had much luck with injuries over the years but I tell myself it has prolonged my career,” said Stagg, who has played 195 NRL games since his 2003 debut.