Cowboys v Broncos: The final word

With their lofty positions on the Telstra Premiership ladder, the backdrop of the Cowboys' 20th anniversary celebrations and with Origin just around the corner, Friday night's clash between the Cowboys and Broncos at 1300SMILES Stadium shapes as one of the games of the season.

Here the respective coaches have their say and we analyse where the punters think the game will be won and lost.

 

Cowboys coach Paul Green

On the threat posed by the Broncos' smaller men

"Defence is certainly an area we are looking to improve. I'm a bit unhappy with the amount of points we have been leaking at the start of the season so far, so it's an area for improvement for us. (Brisbane) have been doing a great job generating some fast play-the-balls, some second-phase. Their smaller, quick guys have certainly been causing some headaches. A big night for the club though, Old Boys reunion and 20-year celebration on the weekend as well, so we will hopefully put on a good display."

On the opportunities coming up for young forwards

"There will be some spots available over the next seven weeks. All of those young guys should be excited about the next seven weeks, not just next week against the Wests Tigers. They will want to put their hand up."

On the potency of the Broncos' back three

"Kick-chase is really important. You've got Darius [Boyd] at the back, you've got Jordan Kahu and Lachlan Maranta doing a good job as well so I'm sure they will be looking to kick early and win that field position battle, so kick-chase is really important. You have got to be careful targeting players the likes of Darius but hopefully he is a couple of weeks off hitting his best form."

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett

On playing the Cowboys on the eve of their 20th anniversary celebration

"It'll be a pretty special night I got no doubt about that. The 20-year [anniversary] for them is important with the Broncos being there and playing them all those year ago. That was one of the better decisions made at the time of expansion. They've had their teething problems but they're a quality football team now and have been for the last four or five years.

On how to nullify Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston

"For the champion players you just do the best you can on the night and hope you win. He's a wonderful player and does it every year and in every match. He plays flat out from the start to the finish of the game and he's a great credit to the game what he brings. I've coached a lot of champion players and you just hope you come up against them on a bad day."

On maintaining top spot heading into the Origin period

"We're in good shape and a good position going into the start of the [Origin] Series but that's all going to change for us next week then it's a whole different couple of months. My feeling is we will be losing quite a number of players. We're in good form and that's always the best recommendation you can have going into Origin. We've got a few current Origin players here as well and they are in good form."

Injury update: The Cowboys have been devastated by the news that centre Tautau Moga has suffered a season-ending ACL injury, the third such injury of the 21-year-old's young career. Coach Paul Green is yet to decide on the final make-up of his bench with young front-rower Sam Hoare in line to play his first NRL game of 2015. 

The Broncos have no such injury concerns with Mitchell Dodds (knee) and Josh McGuire (suspension) the only two members of the top squad not available for selection this week. As a result Sam Thaiday has been moved into the front row and Francis Molo added to the bench.

Market moves: Punters with Sportsbet can't decide who'll win the huge Queensland derby with money split 50-50 between the Cowboys and Broncos. Both sides have been backed to win 1-12 suggesting we could be in for a classic. One market where there is a big difference is in the over/under points market. Eighty per cent of the money is on less than 40.5 points being scored at $1.90.

Matthew Wright has been easily the best backed to be first try-scorer at $10 while Lachlan Maranta is the most popular Brisbane player in the first try-scorer market.

There's no doubt that Tautau Moga's season-ending injury is a blow to the Cowboys but it hasn't forced a price change in premiership betting. North Queensland remain second favourites at $6 behind the Roosters.