Broncos Digging Deep

Injured fullback Darren Lockyer says the Brisbane Broncos are hanging tough despite a post-Origin slide down the NRL ladder.

The Broncos, who fell to fifth on a cluttered NRL table following the weekend's 20-10 loss to Cronulla, face a crunch match against third-place Penrith at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

A loss to the Panthers - unlucky losers to St George-Illawarra at the weekend - would put them under the pump with a difficult run to the finals against the Wests Tigers (home), the Warriors (away), Parramatta (home) and St George-Illawarra (home).

Brisbane would normally fancy their prospects with four of their last five games at home.

But since leaving ANZ Stadium in June, a ground where they boasted an 80 per cent win rate, they've lost three of their four NRL games at Suncorp Stadium to Newcastle, the Bulldogs and the Sea Eagles.

Coach Wayne Bennett conceded the Broncos were in a form "trough" after their Toyota Park ambush -- the club's fourth defeat in five games.

But Lockyer said the players were giving their best against sides which had performed "above their form".

Brisbane would have budgeted on two premiership points against both Manly and Cronulla but they came up empty handed.

A win against either would have had them in a share of the competition lead with Roosters, Raider and Panthers, all on 30 points.

Wins in both games would have shot them to the top of the ladder.

Instead they are now fighting off late season charges by the Bulldogs, Warriors, Eels and Dragons.

"I guess the confidence can get a bit dented after a couple of losses like that, but the boys are toughing it out," said Lockyer, who'll begin running on his injured ankle next week.

"We've lost a couple of games (against Manly and Cronulla) to teams who've played above themselves.

"The worst thing we can do now is start looking at the (points) table.

"We just have to start playing good footy and things will look after themselves."

Lockyer rated himself a 50-50 chance of making an eagerly awaited comeback against the Tigers next weekend.

He and skipper Gorden Tallis will be spectators against the Panthers, who were victims of a few tough video referring calls in their loss to St George-Illawarra.

Penrith's defence of their try-line is suspect but their small-man attack is magnificent.

Fullback Rhys Wesser in particular will be motivated to show Bennett why he should have played for Queensland in the recent Origin series.

Wesser, Preston Campbell, Ryan Girdler and Luke Rooney are all dangerous with the football while former Bronco hooker Luke Priddis is playing terrific football working closely with halfback Craig Gower around the rucks.

The sight of utility Casey McGuire running at training after aggravating a shoulder injury was good news for Brisbane, battling a heavy injury toll.

Lanky winger Scott Minto is still three weeks away from returning from an ankle injury, Brett Seymour is on crutches, and Origin forward Tonie Carroll continues to struggle with a hamstring problem.

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