Matt Gillett could start the season in the middle. Picture: AAP
Matt Gillett could start the season in the middle. Picture: AAP

Gillett a lock as TPJ considered for bench role

BRONCOS coach Anthony Seibold says explosive forward Tevita Pangai Jr could be in line for a bench spot in Round 1 as he toys with the idea of starting Matt Gillett at lock.

Pangai Jr is expected to overcome a hamstring injury in time for Brisbane's NRL season-opener against the Storm in Melbourne next Thursday.

The Tongan powerhouse only played a total of 18 minutes in Brisbane's pre-season trials after aggravating a chronic hamstring injury in the Broncos' win against Wynnum-Manly on February 23.

Pangai Jr's absence saw Gillett return from a broken neck and shoulder reconstruction in the unfamiliar No.13 jersey in Brisbane's final trial win against the Gold Coast Titans last Saturday.

Seibold looked to simplify Gillett's return from serious injuries by playing him in the middle of the field.

And it is a tactic he may continue to use for the NRL premiership despite Gillett being one of the game's premier edge back-rowers.

"I'll have a good look at that, he worked really hard through the middle of the park," Seibold said.

"A lot of the effort areas that people in the crowd don't see were outstanding considering he's coming back from two major injuries.

Tevita Pangai Jnr is expected to overcome a hamstring injury for the season opener. (AAP Image/Darren England)
Tevita Pangai Jnr is expected to overcome a hamstring injury for the season opener. (AAP Image/Darren England)

"It was really pleasing. He's a real professional and it was great to see him back out on the park. I thought he did a really good job in the No.13 jersey.

"He's done a stack of training on an edge. For the last eight or nine years he's predominantly played as a right edge backrower.

"We know how he can perform there. We want to have a look at him in the middle of the park.

"We lost Josh McGuire (to the Cowboys) who's quite an experienced player there and Matt Gillett's work rate has been a standout of his game. I thought he did a good job, so we'll consider that."

If Gillett starts at lock, Pangai Jr could be forced to come off the bench to provide experience in Brisbane's forwards rotation.

Matt Gillett could make his NRL return at lock. Picture: Peter Wallis
Matt Gillett could make his NRL return at lock. Picture: Peter Wallis

"My understanding from our rehab and medical staff is (Pangai) will be available," Seibold said.

"He will do some more rehab running this week, but they don't have any concerns about him not being available.

"Tevita has proven himself to be an NRL player. If he is fit and available he will be in our 17 somewhere, whether that's as a starting player or interchange bench, that's to be decided.

"He brings qualities that not too many other players bring. He's got a good understanding of how we want to play our football.

"Ideally it would have been good to have a few more minutes under his belt but it's not the be all and end all."

Gillett, 30, has played 183 NRL games and is on track to bring up his 200-game milestone if he can stay fit this season.

If Gillett starts at lock, Seibold will choose between young guns David Fifita and Jaydn Su'A for the right back-row spot with the other to come off the bench.

On the left edge will be veteran Alex Glenn, who showed he is up for a big year with a three-try performance against the Titans.

Glenn said his long-time back row sparring partner Gillett could flourish at lock if needed.

"That was his first game back from that devastating injury with his neck and it was a great first hit-out for him," he said.

"Anyone that has a neck injury will be a little bit hesitant and sceptical about going into tackles.

"He put his body on the line and it was a great first hit out after 10 months out. We've still got a lot to see from him this year.

"He can handle the middle. It's how we play through the middle. We get (Matt) Lodge and (Joe Ofahengaue) to take hard carries then play off that.

"I've got confidence in Matt playing through the middle because he has the ball skills and can run strong lines on the edge. That's going to benefit our game."