Broncos bombshell: Star axed for teen sensation
Jamayne Isaako is fighting for his career at the Broncos with the fullback set to be axed in favour of teenage sensation Tesi Niu for Saturday night's derby against the Titans at Suncorp Stadium.
The Courier-Mail understands Anthony Seibold will demote Isaako for the Titans clash as the Broncos coach desperately searches for the right selection formula to snap Brisbane's horror four-match losing streak.
In other selection news, Seibold is tipped to keep faith in halves Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft, despite mounting pressure for Milford to be dumped in the wake of last week's dismal 27-6 loss to the Knights.
Isaako is aware of his impending relegation. Seibold will name his 21-man squad on Tuesday and unless the coach has a sudden change of heart, Isaako will be stripped of the No.1 jumper in a move that will herald Niu's rise to the fullback throne at Red Hill.
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The 18-year-old Niu is rated the club's best fullback talent since Darren Lockyer and Broncos insiders felt it was only a matter of time before the attacking ace unseated Isaako permanently.
Seibold will decide whether to include Isaako in his 17-man squad but it is believed the Kiwi Test star will be omitted completely in what would be a crushing blow for the 24-year-old.
Rated a future NRL superstar, Niu made his top-grade debut in Brisbane's 59-0 loss to the Roosters three weeks ago and after two games off the bench, Seibold is keen to road test the Tongan international as his starting fullback.
It has been a turbulent past six months for Isaako. He was anointed as Seibold's first-choice fullback in pre-season, only for Isaako to be stunned by his axing for round one after Jack Bird's sizzling trial form.
Isaako can be considered unlucky to find himself in the firing line.
When Bird snapped his ACL on the eve of round one, Isaako won a late reprieve and was outstanding against the Cowboys, scoring a try, making five tackle busts and amassing 141 metres to inspire Brisbane's 28-21 victory.
Against the Knights last week, Isaako made 18 runs - the most of any Bronco - and compiled 143 metres, although he missed three tackles and conceded two penalties in the 21-point loss.
Seibold hinted at dropping Isaako with his post-match comments last Thursday night after the Knights consigned Brisbane to their fourth straight loss.
"I will have a look at that (changes to the team)," Seibold said.
"Tesi Niu has been pushing for a starting position and we will look at that."
Isaako's future at Red Hill is as shaky as ever. He has played 44 of his 54 NRL games on the wing but Seibold is likely to retain Xavier Coates and Corey Oates on the flanks for the Titans clash.
In other changes, Seibold must find two forwards for the suspended Tom Flegler and Pat Carrigan. Rhys Kennedy is one option, while Ethan Bullemor is likely to return to the bench for the M1 derby.
LIKELY BRONCOS TEAM TO FACE TITANS
1 Tesi Niu, 2 Xavier Coates, 3 Herbie Farnworth, 4 Darius Boyd, 5 Corey Oates, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Brodie Croft, 8 Matt Lodge, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Payne Haas, 11 Alex Glenn (c), 12 Tevita Pangai Jr, 13 Joe Ofahengaue. Bench 14 Cory Paix, 15 Ben Te'o, 16 Ethan Bullemor, 17 Rhys Kennedy.
Originally published as Broncos bombshell: Star axed for teen sensation