Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
Broncos' enforcer Josh McGuire knows that his side has an almighty battle on their hands to contain the Cowboys' dangerous Test trio of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and James Tamou when they clash with their Queensland cousins on Friday night.
After scraping home 16-12 at Suncorp Stadium in Round 2, the Broncos will face an improved Cowboys side that are slowly showing signs of progression under new coach Paul Green.
With both sides enjoying last weekend off due to the representative break, Friday night's clash at 1300SMILES Stadium shapes as a crucial juncture in the seasons of both sides with the Origin period less than three weeks away.
With eight rounds completed the Cowboys sit 12th on the ladder with six points, while the Broncos are still inside the top eight in sixth position, but are equal on eight competition points with six other sides.
For McGuire, the next two rounds of football are his final chance to press for Origin selection after ignoring calls to represent Samoa in the recent Pacific Test. The 24-year-old now has a perfect opportunity to claim his maiden Queensland jersey if he can produce an eye-catching outing against Test forwards Scott and Tamou.Griffin denies rift with out-of-favour Hannant
"They (Scott and Tamou) have both been playing really good footy and going forward really well so we've got a job on our hands again on Friday night," McGuire said.
"Any team that has the Australian front-rowers, Johnathan Thurston and Brent Tate cannot be written off. 'Thursto' got man of the match on the weekend [for Australia] so it's looking like he's getting back to playing his best footy.
"He (Thurston) is a very dangerous player and you don't know whether he's kicking or passing. So I've got to do my job and support the guys on the outside.
"Every player looks forward to playing against the best teams. It's always a good game the local derby and there's always a lot of passion so I'm excited about the battle."
While McGuire has the necessary size and aggression to go toe-to-toe with the Cowboys' impressive pack, Broncos coach Anthony Griffin is fighting his own battle to ensure that his side can deliver a long-awaited 80-minute performance.
"I was very disappointed with the way we started against Souths. We got outmuscled in the first 20 minutes so that's one area where we are going to have to improve against the Cowboys," Griffin said.
"We've been very good defensively in our games. [But] what we're looking for this week is to put 80 minutes together otherwise guys like Thurston will put you away. So on Friday night, especially the first 20 to 30 minutes, will be a real key to get going again after the bye.
"If you look through their pack – it's one of the best in the game, if not the best – so we're going have to be very good and start better than we did against Souths."
Despite the possibility that the representative weekend will cause his side to lose the momentum they were gradually building, Griffin saw positives with the weekend break that helped alleviate some niggling injuries his players were suffering.
"Sometimes you prefer to keep playing even though the result [against Souths] didn’t go our way," he said.
"It's good to freshen guys up like [Alex] Glenn and [Josh] Hoffman who were a bit of a risk."
The match will come one week too soon for influential back-rower Sam Thaiday, with the Test and Origin star taking longer than expected to overcome a calf injury sustained in training three weeks ago.