No crowd, no problem for NRL's Broncos

Laine Clark
Brisbane Broncos debutant Ethan Bullemor is used to playing at sparsely populated or empty grounds

Believe it or not, but Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold reckons playing in front of an empty stadium will be nothing new to his junior squad.

The Broncos may be one of the NRL's glamour clubs who pride themselves on packing out Suncorp Stadium week in, week out.

Yet Brisbane won't be able to draw on their fabled "18th man" in Friday night's clash with Wayne Bennett's South Sydney after the NRL announced games would be held crowd-free from round two due to coronavirus fears.

While Seibold admitted it would be "surreal" to play in front of an empty Suncorp Stadium, he reckoned it would be business as usual for his young outfit.

He cited debutant 20-year-old forward Ethan Bullemor - who will make his NRL debut off the bench on Friday - as a case in point.

"Ethan is making his debut and 18 months ago he was playing at 11am in front of nobody," he said.

"Two or three years ago a lot of our guys were still at school playing under 18s footy and you don't get great crowds to those games but they still competed strongly.

"Once that initial surreal-type feeling dies away (in front of an empty stadium) it will be footy, the guys will play because they want to compete and want to wear the jersey - it will be the same for every team."

Seibold said motivation to play in front of an empty stadium would not be a problem thanks to the likes of the nervous energy of Bullemor and Jamil Hopoate who replaces the suspended Tevita Pangai Jnr in the starting second row a week after making his NRL debut off the bench.

"If you said two or three weeks ago that he (Hopoate) would be starting as a right edge backrower for the Broncos he probably would have laughed at you," Seibold said.

"But he had a good pre-season and we are missing a few troops in the forwards so he gets an opportunity.

"And I said to Hoppa when you get your turn at the jersey it is what you do, it's not how you get the opportunity."

Whether it was in front of a crowd or not, Seibold hoped the NRL continued.

"(The situation) is certainly unprecedented in my lifetime and something that we just need to be guided on by the government and the game's leaders but internally here we want to keep playing," he said.