Old gaurd ready to fire

They may be among the oldest pairing?s in the National Rugby League, but that has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of Brisbane?s awesome front row partners, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva.

After a grueling 2004 season, which included another brutal State of Origin series and the end-of-season tour of Great Britain, few could blame either man for being a little jaded at the prospect of pre-season training. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Webcke, still regarded as the game?s leading prop forward, returned from a four-week break on his farm weighing in at 110kg ? five kilograms lighter than his playing weight in recent years. Civoniceva also came back to training sharper than when he left as both men seek to maintain their standing as rugby league?s benchmark hit-up men.

"I haven't deliberately set out to lose a stack of weight but I've been careful about the size of my meals," the 30-year-old Webcke said.

"Last year I came back to training at 115kg and this year I've come back at 110kg . . . and I feel a lot better for it."

Both men said they were eager to watch the further development of some of the club?s promising young forwards, with the return of former teammate and good friend Brad Thorn also making for exciting times.

"Guys like Neville Costigan and big Tommy Learoyd-Lars and Sammy Thaiday are going to be putting the heat on a lot of players in the forwards this year," said Civoniceva.

"I know from training we've got some really good kids coming along and they're already training the place down.

"Getting Thorny back is going to be huge for us as well. He's a great athlete, there's no doubt about that and for a big man he carries his weight really well.

"He's had to put rugby league in the back of his mind for a few years but I'm confident when he gets back on the field the old Brad Thorn will kick back in.

Civoniceva said the late-season fadeouts which have plagued Brisbane?s recent premiership campaigns were cause for some concern, but added he was confident that with a little bit of luck similar efforts could be avoided.

"We had the team and fire power to go further than we did although last season we struggled in the crucial games with injuries and guys carrying injuries which didn't help.

"I'm really looking forward to this season. If we can keep everyone healthy - even though it will be tough with Origin and rep football ? we can do anything.

"We've got the side this year. I'm looking forward to seeing Brett Seymour back at halfback.

"Unfortunately he got injured last season when he was just starting to hit his straps. He's been training the house down and having him inside Lockie (Darren Lockyer) and Berro (Shaun Berrigan) and Tatie (Brent Tate) and Hodgo (Justin Hodges) and Karmichael Hunt who had a great year, it's all looking really good."