INJURY WOES: Lachlan Maranta of the Brisbane Broncos.
INJURY WOES: Lachlan Maranta of the Brisbane Broncos. DAN PELED

Maranta injury opens door for Broncos rookie

RUGBY LEAGUE: Brisbane's backline crisis could result in 21-year-old winger Jonus Pearson becoming the latest Bronco to make his NRL debut as a last-minute inclusion.

The Broncos take on Parramatta tomorrow night and with representative centre Jack Reed (shoulder) fighting to save his career and Kiwi representative Jordan Kahu still a week or two away off returning from a pectoral injury, coach Wayne Bennett cannot afford to lose any more specialist backline players.

Lachlan Maranta is the latest concern, having injured his groin in the win over the Dragons last weekend and then broken down at training at Red Hill.

Bennett revealed former Yeppoon junior Pearson had been put on standby for Maranta.

"Lachlan is in a bit of doubt but we'll see how he is this morning,” the coach said.

"He is pretty close to playing. He hurt his groin last week in Sydney, but it is much better.

"We're not totally confident, however, so we'll give him a fitness test and make the call this the morning.”

Pearson, who scored 11 tries for Brisbane's youth side last year, including a treble against Parramatta, had a brief taste of playing for Brisbane in the Auckland Nines earlier this year.

He has plenty of admirers around the club, including Bennett.

"Jonus has done every training session with us since November, so they know what's required and he's in a good system at Redcliffe,” the coach said after adding the 95kg, 183cm rookie to his squad as 18th man.

"We kept him last year because we felt he had a future here and nothing has changed.”

Kahu joined the team briefly for their last training run, but Bennett dismissed any chance the Kiwi could be a late addition to the squad.

"Looking at Jordan run, he's probably a couple of weeks away,” Bennett noted.

"We thought he would be closer than that but he's not fully confident yet.

"He's strong enough but not confident enough so we'll have to wait a bit longer.”

The Broncos' finals credentials will come under heavy scrutiny if they can't back up their win last week against the Dragons.

Even Bennett, who usually says he will be happy if his players turn up and play well, accepts the pressure is on a month out from the NRL finals.

"It's really important we back it up,” he said. "We have to put a line in the sand and back some games up.”

"I expect Parramatta to be tough and desperate to play well and we have to answer that and be on our game. We can't be flat.”

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said his players would need to get in a grind with Brisbane and play tough after the Broncos showed something like their best against the Dragons.

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