The Brisbane Broncos have been rocked by a number of injury scares ahead of the NRL grand final, with Reece Walsh, Adam Reynolds and Herbie Farnworth all receiving treatment at Tuesday's training session. The most serious issue appears to revolve around Farnworth, with the star centre leaving training early and not returning.
The English international emerged with strapping on his upper leg for what appears to be a hamstring or quad issue. "He said, 'I'll be right', in his accent," Forward Kobe Hetherington said after the session. "He's a tough bugger. He'll be right to go."
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Star fullback Walsh also appeared to pick up a hamstring or glute issue and was seen on the ground for around eight minutes receiving assistance from Broncos physiotherapist Luke Anning. The 21-year-old could be seen kicking his left leg out in the minutes after receiving treatment, but managed to re-join the main group and completed the session. "He was still running around," Broncos centre Kotoni Staggs said of Walsh, dismissing the scare.
Halfback and captain Reynolds was also on the ground for about a minute and got up touching what appeared to be a knee or quad complaint, before also re-joining the main group. "I'm all good. Just a bump," he quipped as he walked towards reporters.
State of Origin prop Payne Haas also appeared to have an issue with his hand and went to see Anning during the session. Haas had a 'no-contact' red bib on during the session but was still involved in tackling drills and appeared to be fine.
Broncos dismiss injury concerns ahead of NRL grand final
Broncos officials reported on Monday night that none of the players in the top 22 had any injury concerns ahead of the grand final showdown with the Panthers. After training on Tuesday they said none of Walsh, Reynolds, Farnworth or Haas are in any doubt to play.
The Broncos will need Walsh and Reynolds at full health if they want to stop Penrith from winning a third consecutive premiership. Any injuries to Farnworth or the other outside backs could see Corey Oates win a recall, with the veteran winger overlooked throughout the finals series so far.
Walsh has been one of the form players of the competition over the last six weeks, and his speed and evasiveness will be vital for the Broncos. The 21-year-old had six line-break assists and three try assists in Brisbane's 42-12 win over the Warriors in the preliminary final. But he will have his work cut out against the Panthers' historically stingy finals defence.
Can the Broncos crack the Panthers' stingy defence?
The Panthers can create history in Sunday's grand final by becoming the first team in 40 years to pull off a premiership three-peat. And no team this century has been better prepared to do so than Ivan Cleary's side.
The Panthers have won eight-straight finals games - starting with the semi-final against Parramatta in 2021 - the best of any team since the great St George sides of the 1960s. Cleary's side haven't conceded any more than 12 points in any of those games - an average of 8.25 per game and a total of 11 tries.
Those defensive numbers are the best of any team since Warren Ryan's Canterbury side let in 7.9 points per game across eight matches between 1984 and 1986. But that was well before the 10-metre offside rule came into existence.
"We know defence wins games," Penrith prop Spencer Leniu said on Monday. "A lot of our processes and stuff are driven off defence.
"The boys just go to another level when we come into finals. Everyone knows what's at stake. A lot is on the line and everyone just puts in that extra 10 per cent to do whatever it takes to save a try."
But if anyone can break down the Panthers' defensive wall it is surely Walsh, who coach Kevin Walters has likened to a young Darren Lockyer and Billy Slater. "It's not so much his speed, it's the way he changes direction quickly," Walters said.
"Billy Slater is the closest I have seen. Darren Lockyer was one of the fastest guys in that sort of movement that I played with. He gets across the ground rather quickly."
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