Broncos v Sharks Preview

Broncos v Sharks
Suncorp Stadium
Sunday 2pm

Are we witnessing an early battle for the wooden spoon? Or are both of these teams just starting slow, a la Parramatta 2009 before making a run to potential finals glory?

It seems like the former on current form, considering it is 16th v 15th and a match-up between the worst attacking side (Sharks) and the worst defensive side (Broncos) – although the Broncos put in more effort than the 34-16 loss to the Dragons last weekend suggests, and the Sharks did show they can win a game a fortnight ago against the Eels.

It’s been a tough start for the Broncos, with four straight losses after their opening round win, but with some squad changes and a home crowd cheering them on, they might be able to lift themselves up off the canvass here.

Brisbane fans aren’t used to unsuccessful seasons and with the heat on them this week the Broncos could well bust out of their funk and turn the blowtorch back onto the Sharks.

Fullback Corey Norman has been benched, allowing Josh Hoffman to move to his preferred position from the wing. Dale Copley is out of the side and his fellow centre from last week in Gerard Beale has been benched to allow Israel Folau to return from injury. Also, Matt Gillett shifts from lock to join Folau in the centres.

Both Antonio Winterstein and Jharal Yow Yeh return to the wings after absences from the top grade.

Prop Ashton Sims is out of the side, replaced in the starting line-up by powerhouse youngster Dunamis Lui, while fellow youngster Mitchell Dodds will also start at prop, which sees Scott Anderson move to the bench.

Ben Te’o and Nick Kenny also return to the squad via the reserves list.

The Sharks were fodder for the Sea Eagles last weekend at Brookvale. It gets harder and harder to watch them; they compete well, they complete their sets, yet they still can’t score points. Aargh!

The Albert Kelly fullback experiment is over for now, with Nathan Stapleton moving back to the no.1 jersey and Isaac Gordon coming onto the wing.

Adam Cuthbertson has missed out this week with Luke Harlen selected, while Broderick Wright is the 18th man.

Watch out Broncos: It’s time for the home side Broncos to lift defensively in this match. Currently the side has leaked more points than any other side (30.6) a game and has the worst effective tackle rate in the NRL (81.8 per cent effective). They have also missed more tackles than any other side with 226 for the year, or 45.2 a game!

Add to this the fact the Sharks’ defence rates at 86.5 per cent effective and has pumped out a whopping 187 dominant tackles compared to Brisbane’s 74, and the potential for problems is obvious.

Thankfully for the home side, the Sharks’ attack has been dismal this season, scoring just 11.4 points a match, but if the combination of Tim Smith and Trent Barrett find a way to fire, they will have plenty of gaps to go through.

Watch out Sharks: Israel Folau returns for the Broncos – and not a moment too soon for the Brisbane faithful.

In his two and a half matches earlier this season Folau averaged 91 metres gained (would have been higher except for his early departure in Round 3), had three line-breaks and four tries plus two line-break assists and a try assist.

Peter Wallace and Darren Lockyer will ensure Folau gets plenty of ball, as he looks to help lift the Broncos out of the mire they find themselves in.
 
The Sharks’ woes against kicks have also been quoted numerous times, so expect the high ball to head to the best leaper in the NRL. And often.

Where it will be won: Execution. The Broncos have the firepower to win this game, while the Sharks seemingly don’t – but even 11 points could be enough to win the match if the Broncos don’t get 12.

The Sharks, bless their trying souls, do end up with a handful of good attacking sets in each match, despite only averaging 1162 metres gained (last in NRL) and will need to execute precisely to make them count.

With just 10 line-breaks all year, the Sharks must make something happen on the two they are expected to make in this game. They also need to create something unique when in the ‘green’ zone, attacking the Broncos’ line. Sadly though, their average 15 errors a match might cruel their hopes.

The Broncos also need to execute when their chances come. The Sharks defend admirably, and don’t miss a heap of tackles, but they do have problems reading attacking moves and as such can be susceptible to clean line-breaks.

Crisp, clean, well-executed plays by Brisbane will reap points… but if they panic or push a pass that isn’t on, they could play right into the Sharks’ hands.

The history: Played 42; Broncos 26, Sharks 16. The Broncos lead the overall head-to-head count reasonably comfortably and at Suncorp they have won 90 per cent of all clashes, or nine out of 10.

Cronulla’s only win against Brisbane at Suncorp came way back in June 2004. But, for those looking for a sequence to bank on, the past seven matches have been win-loss between these two sides; if this were to continue it would be the Sharks’ turn for victory.

Last season’s Suncorp encounter went to the Broncos 30-10 – however, the earlier clash at Toyota Stadium was a record win for the Sharks over Brisbane, by 46-12.  

Conclusion: The home side’s attacking potential gives them the edge here, with the Shark’s side still devoid of a lot of confidence. Their record at Suncorp is dismal, to say the least, but if they are ever to turn it around, this game represents one of their best chances. Still, it’s Brisbane to win.

Match officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Ricky McFarlane; Video Ref – Tim Mander.

Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.

* Stats: NRL Stats.