The Brisbane Broncos have been struck with a new setback as their star back, Kotoni Staggs, is expected to be sidelined ahead of Thursday night’s much-anticipated match against the Storm. Staggs has received a grade-two dangerous contact charge from the NRL match review committee for his elbow incident involving Jordan Rapana during Saturday’s game where the Broncos clinched a 29-18 victory over the Raiders in Canberra.
If Staggs accepts the early guilty plea, he will face a one-week suspension, leaving the Broncos without their robust centre for their last regular season game against challenging rivals Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium. But should Staggs decide to challenge the charge at the NRL judiciary, he could face a potentially worse outcome of a two-match ban, which makes the early guilty plea more likely for Brisbane.
The suspension of Staggs further compounds the Broncos problems for their standoff against the Storm. Brisbane will already be missing key players Adam Reynolds (calf) and Pat Carrigan (foot injury), both of whom were late withdrawals against the Raiders. As Staggs was instrumental in the victory against Canberra, the loss will be deeply felt when they face a Melbourne team that already wields a significant mental advantage over the Brisbane side.
Brisbane’s win record against Melbourne at Suncorp has been dismal. The Broncos have not secured a victory against them in this venue since 2009, an impressive 5277-day streak for Melbourne. Despite these hits, the Broncos are comforted by their secured position in the top two, guaranteeing them a home semi-final at Suncorp in the initial round of finals, even in the event of a loss to Melbourne.
Kevin Walters, the Bronco’s coach, will likely regret Staggs’ rash actions towards Raiders‘ fullback, Rapana. In Stagg’s absence, Walters may consider Jesse Arthars or rising star Deine Mariner as replacements, the latter is set to fill the shoes of Herbie Farnworth next season, who is off to join the Dolphins.
Ex-Broncos captain, Corey Parker, suggests that the encounter against Melbourne will be a crucial measure of Brisbane’s title aspirations this season. “The last time they defeated Melbourne at Suncorp was in 2009, which has been a long stretch,” he observed. The Storm, filled with Queensland players who thrive in Suncorp, have a playing style that continues to catch the Broncos out.
It is uncertain whether Reynolds and Carrigan will be available for the match, but the Broncos‘ entertaining playing style may be hard-pressed against stalwart teams like Penrith and Melbourne. “You need stability and someone to pull in the reins,” Parker noted.
Walters confirmed Carrigan and Reynolds won’t be available for the Melbourne match but remains hopeful that a week’s respite will see them return during the opening week of finals. However, no guarantees are in place as the Brisbane medical team fights against the clock. “I have confidence in the boys to do the job,” said Walters after their Canberra victory. He was careful about making promises about the availability of the injured duo for the finals. Their progress, particularly Carrigan’s which involves ligament damage to his foot, will determine if they meet Melbourne on Thursday.