Veteran lock forward Darren Smith will make a return at the back of the Brisbane scrum in this weekend?s clash with Parramatta, saying he is more than happy to help out his former club ?in a time of need?.
After the Broncos disastrous collapse following the completion of last year?s State of Origin series coach Wayne Bennett indicated he would take a different approach this time round, but calling back former star pupils Smith and Ben Ikin and recruiting another former Queensland player, Paul Green, was not part of the plan.
?I?m just filling the gaps where they need to be filled,? Bennett said with a grin.
?I suppose Alf (Langer) is next and ?The Pearl? has comeback so maybe we can use him too.?
As well as managing his club?s heavy Origin commitment, Bennett has had to contend with injuries to several key player.
Missing from this Saturday?s match are skipper Gorden Tallis (neck), Australian representatives Shaun Berrigan (hamstring) and Brent Tate (shoulder), winger Stu Kelly (neck), hooker Barry Berrigan (neck) and young halfback Brett Seymour.
So after watching the 35-year-old Smith terrorise his youngsters when Easts overran the Toowoomba Clydesdales last week, Bennett thought an SOS was the best course of action.
?I was told he had been playing well all season and I went and watched last week and he was the best player on the field. Better than anyone we had,? Bennett said.
?So I thought I would see if he could come over and help out for a couple of weeks while Brent (Tate) and Berro and Gorden are injured.
?I must thank Easts because it was a huge commitment for them to let him go and I am really happy with the decision because Darren Smith is a guy who certainly won?t let you down.?
Smith said he was surprised to hear from his former coach, but was confident he could do the job required of him against the Eels.
He last played in the NRL in 2002 for the Bulldogs, playing 30 games in the English Super League last year before joining the Tigers in Brisbane at the start of the year in a marketing and playing role.
It is a move Smith says has given him renewed energy and with almost 15 years at the top level behind him he still believes he has plenty to contribute.
?I just love playing footy, that?s all there is to it,? he said.
?I am keen to keep playing at the highest level I can for as long as possible.
?I have been very fortunate with injuries over the years and that has helped me greatly. But being at Easts this year has been great. The young guys are so enthusiastic and energetic it is hard for it not to rub off a bit.
?It is the same down here with all the new faces and young kids coming through. I have also enjoyed the step up in intensity and I can?t wait for Saturday.?
Smith?s inclusion and Kelly?s absence has forced a further re-shuffle of the Broncos line-up, with Tonie Carroll moving into the centres and rangy flanker Scott Minto going to the wing.
The full team is: Karmichael Hunt, Craig Frawley, Michael De Vere, Tonie Carroll, Scott Minto, Darren Lockyer, Casey McGuire, Shane Webcke, Michael Ryan, Petero Civoniceva, Corey Parker, Dane Carlaw, Darren Smith. Interchange: Brad Meyers, Neville Costigan, Tom Learoyd, Darren MappLike