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Haas will be mentioned in same breath as Lazarus, Harragon and Webcke

Both these sides have been disappointing this season. So much so that it’s hard to predict who will win in Townsville tonight.

But the one person you can expect to stand up is Broncos man mountain Payne Haas. One day they will mention him in the same breath as Lazarus, Harragon and Webcke.

Broncos bucked

Remember when these sides met in round two? It was a cracking match, but the Broncos ran away with it 29-10, with Tevita Pangai jnr tearing the Cowboys apart – while also keeping Jason Taumalolo quiet.

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How the mighty have fallen.

I’ve never seen a Brisbane side get destroyed like they were against the Storm last Friday night. Smashed on every level.

Melbourne were methodical, with everyone in the right place, running into the right gaps at the right time. Brisbane? They were running into each other and seemed to have little idea what they were doing.

Getting it right: Anthony Seibold addresses the Broncos during a training session in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Getting it right: Anthony Seibold addresses the Broncos during a training session in Brisbane on Tuesday.Credit:AAP

Coach Anthony Seibold needs to make some tough calls. He needs to change the side's spine.

Hooker Andrew McCullough has been a solid, tough player but he poses no threat out of dummy half.

Five-eighth Darius Boyd has also been solid, but everyone can see he’s coming to the end.

Fullback Anthony Milford has shown glimpses of brilliance, but not consistently at the standard required – and on the money he’s on.

I like halfback Jake Turpin, but he’s a hooker, not a halfback.

Stampede: Robbie Farah and the Tigers hammer the Cowboys.

Stampede: Robbie Farah and the Tigers hammer the Cowboys.Credit:NRL Photos

Cowboys bucked

The Cowboys produced their worst performance of the year last week, losing 28-4 to the Tigers. The scoreboard doesn’t tell you exactly how off the pace they were.

Because of their team on paper, especially their forward pack, I tipped them to win but they offered nothing.

Their middles – Taumalolo, Josh McGuire and Jordan McLean – were all kept quiet. Along with Matt Scott and Scott Bolton off the bench, they should be getting so much more go-forward.

They also look one-paced out wide. They lack flair and creativity and miss genuine strike.

I’m happy to see winger Gideon Gela-Mosby in the starting side. I’ve seen him play lower grades and in the under-20s and he’s got a lot of potential. He’s quick and very good at getting the sets going on early tackles.

Centre of attention: Coen Hess is finding the going tough in the centres for the Cowboys.

Centre of attention: Coen Hess is finding the going tough in the centres for the Cowboys.Credit:AAP

Left-side story

I appreciate the Cowboys are short on troops, but Coen Hess is not working at left centre. Defensively, he’s not up to it.

On the left, they have Gavin Cooper, Jake Clifford and Hess together. And that’s a problem because that’s the side Brisbane like to strike.

That’s where Kotoni Staggs, who I consider an Australian player of the future, will terrorise them.

Brisbane will work the play to the left side of the field, open up the field and then attack them to the right on a long shift. On those longer shifts, the gaps between the defenders become much wider, so they can isolate those defenders more.

If I was Cowboys coach Paul Green, I’d be moving winger Kyle Feldt into the centres to get him closer to the action.

One that got away: Kalyn Ponga.

One that got away: Kalyn Ponga.Credit:AAP

Retention regrets

If the Cowboys could rewind 18 months, I’m sure they would’ve made some different decisions when it came to recruitment and retention.

They let Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle), Brandon Smith (Melbourne) and Viliame Kikau (Penrith) go. I know the salary cap is difficult to juggle, but they are three players they should’ve kept.

There is talk about Green being under pressure, but who do they replace him with?

Also, people seem to forget he lost one of the greatest of all time in Johnathan Thurston, who retired last year.

The pain of losing Thurston is going to be felt for a few more years, in much the same way the Knights felt a lot of pain when Matthew Johns left in 2000.

Actually, hang on … we won the comp the next year.

On the ramapage: Payne Haas.

On the ramapage: Payne Haas.Credit:AAP

Player to watch

Every time I see Payne Haas, I get blown away. But I really came to understand what a special player he is – and will become – in the NSW camp for Origin I.

He’s a devout Muslim and when he came into camp he was going through Ramadan. He had the resolve and discipline to not eat or drink any liquids from dawn to dusk, while training at the same time, and when everything is laid out for him and the other players are eating whatever they want.

Then you realise he's just 19. For a player of his age, coming into a daunting environment like that and showing that sort of discipline was impressive.

There's also the way he plays.

This guy is 115 kilograms, but dances around like he’s 100. He can step off both feet and get into space and then has remarkable acceleration in those short spaces to punch through the line. He also plays big minutes, despite his frame.

When you watch him, you forget that he’s still a teenager. Front-rowers don’t come into their own until they are about 25.

He’s still growing into his body and, when he does, we will be talking about him like we talk about Glenn Lazarus, Paul Harragon and Shane Webcke.

The verdict

I have no idea which team is going to turn up – and that goes for both sides. How will both bounce back from crushing losses? I don’t know. Broncos in a tight one.

Joeys tip: Broncos by 4

First try-scorer: Kotoni Staggs (although anytime try-scorer is also a must)

Man of the match: Payne Haas

Andrew Johns is an Immortal, a Newcastle great and a commentator for Channel Nine

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