NRL winds up for a brutal finals season

WITH finals positions on the line, every game at this time of the year is brutal.

Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough admitted the giant Cowboys pack, headed by the likes of Origin props Matt Scott and James Tamou, had thrown everything at his team last Friday night.

But McCullough said the way his teammates had defended their line had provided a boost in confidence ahead of another must-win match against Newcastle tomorrow night.

"This time of year's always brutal. Every team in the comp has got a pretty solid pack now," he said.

"Our attack didn't really click at times, but if the boys are willing to defend their line, it's a good indicator we're willing to fight for each other.

"You know when you feel comfortable on the field, and it felt like that on the weekend."

McCullough, who debuted in 2008 and has been touted as a future Maroons hooker, said he would relish his personal battle against former Blues and Kangaroos No.9 Danny Buderus.

"He means so much to their team. Wayne (Knights coach Wayne Bennett) has got him back there for a reason. If it's not on the field, it's off the field with all the young blokes he's giving a hand to," the 23-year-old said.

After playing under Bennett in his last year as coach of the Broncos in 2008, McCullough said the shadow of the the master coach had finally slipped away from Red Hill.

The Dalby product added he saw a bit of Bennett in current Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin, who stayed on message during his team's three-game losing streak, before bouncing back against the Cowboys.

"He keeps things cool, and he's still got his dry jokes at training," McCullough said.

While the win against the Cowboys kept the Broncos in the finals race - they are still four points outside the top eight - the Knights are also desperate for a win. Their 28-12 loss to the Roosters on Sunday left them hanging onto eighth place on points difference from the in-form Warriors.

McCullough said his teammates would find out whether they were genuine finals material by the way they handled themselves against a Knights team full of representative players.

"They're a quality side and the biggest thing is being consistent. You can have one good game against the Cowboys, but you've got to be able to back it up," he said.

"It gives you a bar to set with how well you're going - this will really be a test for us on their home ground."