Broncos v Cowboys preview
Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys
Friday 20 March 7.35pm (AEST)
Big plays, big hits, big crowds, match-winning tackles, tries and field goals and most importantly, a big rivalry.
The long-standing intrastate battle between Brisbane and North Queensland enters its 21st season with fans having to wait a little longer this this time round to quench their thirst for a Queensland derby.
If there's one man who's experienced a few sleepless nights over the past few days it's Johnathan Thurston.
Thurston and fiancée Samantha welcomed their second child on Monday but as delicate and heart-warming as that moment is, there will be no treating the Cowboys' skipper with kid gloves on Friday night.
The champion playmaker copped more than his fair share of roughhousing against the Knights last Saturday, leaving 1300SMILES Stadium a battered and bruised man.
Brisbane's Corey Parker lit the pre-game fuse by warning his Maroons teammate to expect the same treatment inside the cauldron with the likes of Josh Maguire and Adam Blair unlikely to take a backwards step in pursuit of the 245-game veteran.
The Cowboys were one of the competition favourites before a ball was kicked this season, but two home losses to start the year hasn't been ideal.
Green has made a major change with former Panther Lachlan Coote coming into the side to play his first NRL game for the club. Robert Lui has been dropped in place of Michael Morgan who has been shifted from fullback to five-eighth to partner Thurston.
For the Broncos, this clash represents a chance to build on their solid defensive display in their 10-2 Round 2 win over the Sharks.
Wayne Bennett has remained loyal to those players by naming an unchanged side for his first Queensland derby since 2008.
Watch out Broncos: After making his debut as a 17-year-old in 2010, Cowboys enforcer Jason Taumalolo has become one of the most damaging back-rowers in the game after his breakthrough season in 2014.
The Kiwi native made 3,526 metres from 25 games last season at an average of 141 metres per game.
To compliment this, the 191-centimetre, 113-kilogram monster made 87 tackle busts (the most out of any Cowboys' player), scored six tries and averaged a shade under 20 tackles per game.
The 21-year-old had a quiet night out in Round 1, but made up for that last weekend against the Knights with 143 metres, six tackle busts and two offloads.
Watch out Cowboys: There's no better way for Anthony Milford to endear himself to the Broncos' faithful by having a blinder against their Queensland rivals.
Brisbane's new five-eighth struggled to inject himself in Round 1 against Souths, making a disappointing 34 metres from five runs, four missed tackles and received the ball only 20 times from the Broncos' 33 sets.
Milford responded in Round 2 against the Sharks with 120 metres from 12 runs, two offloads, two tackle breaks, made 14 tackles with only two misses and most importantly, handed the Steeden 41 times from Brisbane's 37 sets.
The 20-year-old looked more dangerous as the match wore on and as Cronulla's forwards began to tire.
Key Match-Up: Sam Thaiday v James Tamou
They are both Origin and Test players and have become impact players off the bench for their respective teams.
Both have big points to prove and would love nothing more than a dominant performance against their Queensland rival.
While Thurston v Ben Hunt will be an intriguing head-to-head battle, the impact that the two forwards have off the bench could make a massive difference in this contest.
The History: Played 38; Broncos 27, Cowboys 9, Draw 2.
These sides met three times last season with the Cowboys winning twice including the qualifying final where they led 24-0 at half-time, surviving a Broncos fightback to win 32-20.
Results have varied in previous seasons; the Broncos won both games they played in 2013, while in 2012 the Cowboys won all three.
Recent clashes at Suncorp Stadium have been tight affairs. The past six games have been decided by six points or less with Brisbane winning four of them.
What Are The Odds: Punters can't split these two teams and neither can Sportsbet. More individual bets have been placed on Brisbane, however the larger bets have gone on North Queensland. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Lead Referee: Gerard Sutton. Assistant Referee: Grant Atkins. Touch Judges: Jeff Younis and Nick Beashel. Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – 7.30pm Qld (Live); 9.30pm NSW (delayed).
The Way We See It: A derby always brings plenty of passion and emotion. The game could be a traditional slug-fest or a free-flowing spectacle.
There's plenty of improvement to come for both sides this season, however the outcome could come down to which coach can inspire his troops in the most constructive way.
Bennett has been in this position many times over his 27 years as a head coach and will have a plan on what to do and what to say in order for his side to win.
It's up to his players to execute that plan. Broncos by two.