Broncos v Eels preview
Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels
An extraordinary celebration of rugby league and commemoration of the Anzac spirit will culminate on Saturday night with two teams eager to restore some winning momentum to their season.
The Broncos' five-match winning streak came to a halt at the hands of the Dragons last Friday night while the Eels upset Newcastle to break a two-match losing streak and are seeking two consecutive wins for the first time this season.
Brisbane received a boost on Friday with the news Justin Hodges would play after overcoming a hamstring injury, while Alex Glenn's fractured eye socket sees Sam Thaiday shift to the back row and Adam Blair start in the front row.
Lachlan Maranta also returns for Brisbane at fullback with Francis Molo in line to make his first appearance of 2015 from the bench.
Prop Darcy Lussick is back in the Eels' forward pack after being a late withdrawal lats week and Will Hopoate has been named to start in the centres, with Reece Robinson to wear the No.1 jersey and play fullback, as they lined up against Newcastle last week.
Parramatta will wear a commemorative Anzac Day jersey for the first time in the club's history and both teams will participate in an Anzac Day ceremony prior to kick-off from 7.45 that will feature The Last Post, Ode to Remembrance and national anthems of both Australia and New Zealand.
Watch Out Broncos: When Semi Radradra succumbed to injury after just two games those outside Parramatta wondered how they'd replace him but the Eels knew they had the next 'big' thing waiting in the wings. In five weeks John Folau has proven what good pundits already knew; that Izzy's big little brother was made for first grade. He boasts the most number of line breaks of both teams (five) and has four tries to his name, showing immense power and try-scoring smarts in equal measure. The good news for Broncos defenders is that at 193 centimetres and 112 kilograms the 20-year-old is easy to spot.
Watch Out Eels: Josh McGuire rarely struggles for motivation but the opportunity to play on Anzac Day – his father retired from the Army after 29 years service last year – and with the representative season almost upon us will bring the best out in the man they call 'Moose'. Averaging 119 metres and 33 tackles per game, McGuire has been vital to the Broncos' winning the battle in the middle and the big forward is on the verge of Origin selection for Queensland.
Key Match-up: Ben Hunt v Chris Sandow. Two cheeky kids from rural Queensland destined for big things but who have had to overcome doubts – both theirs and those of onlookers – before being handed the keys to an NRL team. After a breakout year in 2014, Hunt is slowly warming to the task in Brisbane, his golden-point try against the Roosters is sure to be one of the highlights of the season while Sandow's spark was a key reason to the Eels' strong start to 2015. Sandow has the edge in try assists (four) and line-break assists (three) but Hunt's running game has delivered 15 tackle breaks and three line-breaks.
History: Played 48; Broncos 28; Eels 19; Drawn 1. After Brisbane's admission into the competition it proved tough going for the Eels, who recorded just two wins over the Broncos in their first 16 meetings. The ledger has been more even in recent years with the teams splitting the past eight clashes four apiece. Although the Eels have just six premiership wins at Suncorp Stadium from 18 visits, they had great success at QEII Stadium, winning six and drawing one other game from 10 attempts.
Did You Know? This is the second time that the Broncos and Eels have met on Anzac Day. In 2003 Michael Devere scored two tries and kicked two goals to score 12 of Brisbane's points in their 20-14 win at Parramatta Stadium. Although Pat Richards and Jamie Lyon are still playing in the NRL, Corey Parker is the only player from that game 12 years ago lining up at Suncorp on Saturday night.
What Are The Odds? Broncos $1.33 v Eels $3.30. There's been twice the money on the Eels to cause the upset which has seen Brisbane's price drift as the week has gone on. Parramatta have been extremely well backed at the line where they're receiving the start with Sportsbet. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant Referee: Chris James. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Chris Butler. Video Referees: Jared Maxwell and Ben Galea.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 8pm.
How We See It: The Eels' poor defensive record is all that separates them from the top eight and their current position of 15th as – along with Manly – they have conceded more points than any other team this season. They have scored more points than the Broncos but if they can't break down the fourth-best defence in the competition they will leave disappointed. A big crowd will witness a wonderful occasion and the home side record a hard-fought win. Broncos by 10 points.