GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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Brisbane's fitness guru Jeremy Hickmans believes Darren Lockyer is capable of playing a full 80 minutes in his comeback game against Penrith in Sunday's NRL opening round at Suncorp Stadium.
Lockyer, who has not played any football since tearing his anterior cruciate 242 days ago, is regarded as the x-factor against the Panthers given his lack of trial form.
While some reports suggested the Broncos skipper was not fully recovered, Lockyer has come through a searching rehabilitation and has declared himself ready for Sunday.
"Generally you'd be very surprised in someone coming back from an ACL injury played 80 minutes in their first game," Hickmans told AAP.
"But having said that, Darren Lockyer is a superb athlete whose top end fitness isn't an issue for him.
"If anyone can do it, he can."
Hickmans said players could expect to shed between two and four kilograms on Sunday afternoon with the game scheduled to be played in the heat of the day at 1pm Brisbane time.
With the weather expected to be a factor, Brisbane's new-look side is gearing up to chop down Penrith's hefty forward pack with its all-representative interchange bench.
Coach Wayne Bennett named five new faces in his 18-man squad to tackle a Panthers side led by former Bronco and new skipper Petero Civoniceva.
Given the size of Penrith's pack it's not surprising he's opted for five forwards on his bench with prop Nick Kenny the likely omission.
With Sam Thaiday (Origin & Australia), Greg Eastwood (New Zealand), PJ Marsh (Origin) and David Stagg (Origin) all boasting representative honours, Brisbane's bench is capable of soaking up the battering Civoniceva and Kiwi internationals Tony and Frank Puletua and Frank Pritchard will dish out.
Penrith's starting pack is loaded with class with hooker Luke Priddis, Civoniceva, Trent Waterhouse and Tony Puletua all having all played at the highest level.
"We're up against a pretty good pack so it will be a good test for them," said Lockyer.
"If they can put in a good performance then it will do them the world of good."
Lockyer said Civoniceva would run onto Suncorp Stadium as the enemy with a point to prove to the Broncos after they failed to re-sign him this season.
"I will be the first time for me in senior football I've played against Petero," he said.
"I think that's part and parcel of professional football these days, you're going to play against your mates at some stage.
"Petero will come back here as captain of the Panthers and he will want to do well for his team to try and make a point to his old club."