Cronk clone could kill off McCullough
BRISBANE coach Anthony Seibold will ramp-up his youth policy next season by blooding a Cooper Cronk-lookalike in a move that threatens to end the career of veteran Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Cory Paix will be the next young gun to roll off Brisbane's production line in 2020, with the rookie's rise to leave McCullough fighting to save his decorated career at Red Hill.
It is understood the Broncos have plans to debut Paix in next year's premiership opener as Brisbane's No.14 super-sub to provide insurance for hooker Jake Turpin and the halves.
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The 19-year-old Paix, dubbed a Cronk clone with his articulate manner and physical parallels to the Roosters champion, is considered more versatile than McCullough, being capable of playing five-eighth, halfback and hooker.
Paix is traditionally a halfback, but the Broncos have spent the past six months converting him into a hooker with a view to injecting the ruck speed that makes Damien Cook so dangerous at South Sydney.
Now Seibold believes the teenager is ready for an NRL promotion, with a Turpin-Paix dummy-half alliance meaning there is no guarantee McCullough will be seen in Broncos colours again.
McCullough has had a magnificent career at the Broncos. The 29-year-old is the sixth most-capped player in Broncos history, equal with Allan Langer on 258 games, but he is no longer the selection untouchable who reigned as Brisbane's No.1 hooker for the past decade.
Unless McCullough produces some sizzling pre-season trial form, he faces starting the 2020 season on the outer in the Intrust Super Cup.
Paix served his apprenticeship in the Intrust Super Cup this season, playing 17 games for feeder-club Redcliffe, and has impressed Seibold with his work ethic, game awareness and maturity.
Even the way Paix speaks - polished, articulate, polite and measured - suggests he is cut from the same intellectual cloth as Cronk.
At 180cm and 87kg, Paix is two centimetres taller and one kilogram lighter than Cronk.
Seibold road-tested him at hooker in a pre-season trial in Warwick in February.
Former Queensland Origin lock Scott Sattler, the Intrust Super Cup's No.1 analyst with competition broadcaster Channel 9, backed Brisbane's plan to blood Paix.
"Cory is ready to make the step up to the NRL," Sattler said.
"He has come through the system as a halfback or five-eighth but I see him developing into a hooker in the NRL.
"In the last half of the season, he was being coached as a hooker and if Jake Turpin is now the first-choice No.9 at the Broncos, Paix shapes as the perfect utility for his first year in the NRL.
"It puts pressure on Andrew McCullough. With the No.14 jumper, you now need a guy who can cover an array of positions with the HIA (Head Injury Assessment) rules so Paix might have a bit more versatility than McCullough."
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