Andrew McCullough is under serious pressure. Picture: John Gass/AAP
Andrew McCullough is under serious pressure. Picture: John Gass/AAP

McCullough battling to save his Broncos career

BRISBANE coach Anthony Seibold insists he won't give up on Andrew McCullough, as the Broncos veteran fights to avoid becoming a $600,000 reserve grader.

McCullough will begin his quest to save his NRL career on Saturday when he starts at hooker for the Broncos in a trial match against the CQ Capras in Rockhampton.

A veteran of 258 NRL games, McCullough has fallen behind rising rake Jake Turpin in the race to wear Brisbane's No. 9 jersey this season.

Turpin, 23, was one of Brisbane's success stories in a turbulent 2019, playing five games at hooker and impressing at halfback late in the season.

The 17-game novice's preferred position is at dummy-half and he is the leading contender to secure the Broncos' hooker duties.

Turpin has been selected to play in the NRL Nines this weekend.

McCullough, 30, debuted for the Broncos in 2008 and played three Origins for Queensland in 2018, but now faces a genuine fight to feature in the NRL this year.

Seibold said he wasn't shutting the door on McCullough, and Brisbane's three-week trial campaign would play a pivotal role in the make-up of the Broncos' Round 1 team.

"I'm not giving up on Macca," he said.

"Andrew McCullough is a legend of the Broncos. He has played 250 games for the club, he has played State of Origins and been in a grand final (2015).

"He has been a terrific servant, but what Jake showed last year in the games he played was that he is a genuine NRL player.

Andrew McCullough has experience on his side. Picture: Peter Wallis
Andrew McCullough has experience on his side. Picture: Peter Wallis

"I don't think Jake has got the jump (on McCullough for the number nine jersey). There is genuine competition for jerseys this year and one thing that does is take away any complacency.

"What we have tried to do over the last 12 months is build some depth.

"I'm confident Macca will go up there and give a really good account of himself. Jake is over at the Nines and he will get his opportunity next week against the Cowboys (in Cairns).

"There is competition for the number nine jumper and that's a good thing, not a bad thing."

It is hard to see McCullough playing in the NRL if he doesn't start at hooker.While he is defensively excellent and has a high work rate, Seibold is likely to look for punch off his bench in the shape of a utility like Jack Bird or youngster Cory Paix.

McCullough, who has a contract option in his favour to remain at the Broncos in 2021, will be assigned to the North Devils in the Intrust Super Cup, a competition he hasn't played in since 2011 when he was dropped for disciplinary reasons.

McCullough last played reserve grade in 2011. Picture: Peter Wallis
McCullough last played reserve grade in 2011. Picture: Peter Wallis

A reliable player, McCullough still has plenty to offer and Seibold said he was glad to have multiple hooking options like he did at South Sydney in 2018 when the Rabbitohs reached a preliminary final.

"It's a good position for me to be in," he said.

"At Souths I had Robbie Farah and Damien Cook competing for the hooking spot so I've been in this position before."

The Broncos will roll out a host of big names in tonight's trial.

Former captain Darius Boyd will start at left centre, Bird will make a short cameo at fullback and Tevita Pangai Jr is slated to start on an edge with Pat Carrigan at lock.

The Broncos will play another trial against the Cowboys on Saturday week before finalising their pre-season preparations against the Titans at Redcliffe on February 29.

BRONCOS TEAM FOR TRIAL VS CQ CAPRAS

1 Jack Bird, 2 Richie Kennar, 3 Darius Boyd, 4 Bessie Aufaga-To'omaga, 5 Jon Reuben, 6 Darren Nicholls, 7 Tyson Gamble, 8 Rhys Kennedy, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Joe Ofahengaue, 11 Jamil Hopoate, 12 Tevita Pangai Jr, 13 Patrick Carrigan, 14 Kobe Hetherington, 15 Jordan Riki, 16 Pride Petterson-Robati, 17 Lachlan Timm, 18 Jack Martin, 19 Guy Hamilton, 20, Cole Waaka, 21 Joshua James.

Watch the 2020 NRL Nines tournament LIVE & On-Demand on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >



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