Canberra Raiders v Brisbane Broncos
Wayne Bennett has named all six of his Queensland Maroon stars for the Broncos' Saturday night showdown against the Raiders in Canberra with Anthony Milford set to face his old team for the first time.
The Raiders will have to step up to be a chance in this one after failing to dispose of a representative and injury ravaged Bulldogs team last week in one of the most exciting game's of the year. The exciting nature of the clash overshadowed a real issue for Ricky Stuart's men, their struggle in defence, particularly out wide.
The baby Broncos did a Bulldogs-like job on the Knights on Monday night, missing their six Origin stars. Big performances from players such as Francis Molo, David Stagg and Joe Ofahengaue were key for Brisbane. Now they've all been rewarded for their effort with spots on a seven-man bench.
Meanwhile the Raiders have some positive team news. The underrated Sam Williams has adequately recovered from his collapsed lung and will replace Mitch Cornish at halfback. Another is Jack Wighton, who returns just in time from his back injury to replace Jordan Rapana (ankle) in this one. Also, the in-form Shannon Boyd will miss a week with a cheekbone issue, Kyle O'Donnell will replace him on the bench. David Shillington comes into the starting team for the first time this year with Frank-Paul Nuuausala dropping to the bench.
Watch Out Raiders: Once again an old favourite returns to Canberra to torment his old club. Anthony Milford has finally found form orchestrating the Broncos left-side attack and picked up the man of the match award against the Knights. His speed off the mark has been used to increasing effect for Brisbane over recent weeks and landed him a try on Monday night, his fifth of the season. He is now set to join the likes of Carney and Dugan who have returned to Canberra with career-best performances in recent years. The Raiders will need to be at their defensive best to nullify Milford on the edges, an area they traditionally struggle to lock down. After letting in 41 points last week, many of them cheaply, the men from Canberra, who have missed the fourth most tackles in the NRL (300) will have their hands full with the old-star.
Watch Out Broncos: It's no coincidence that the Raiders success this year has coincided with the presence of Sam 'steady-as-a-ship' Williams at halfback. He's the typical underrated performer, doing nothing flashy, but making everyone around him better, especially danger-man Blake Austin. The Raiders won four from five with Williams added to the team in Round 5 against the Sea Eagles. Otherwise, they're one from six. Speaking of Austin, who is extremely difficult not to mention as the Raiders danger man each and every week, he will also be boosted by the addition of Jack Wighton at the back. With those two key spine positions back to full strength, Austin once again has free-reign to do what he does best, and that is to run the footy. He's the only non-outside back at the top of the linebreaks statistic, sitting in 3rd with nine this year to go with his six tries.
Key Match-Up: Ben Hunt v Sam Williams. It's the battle of two controlled halfbacks who will be hoping to complement their ball-running partners on Saturday. Hunt is poised to once again be a central component of the Broncos attack. He'll go up against Williams who will be given no time to get back into the swing of things for the Raiders. Whoever steps up and takes control in attack will go a long way to securing victory for their team on Saturday.
The History: Played 48; Raiders 19, Broncos 27. Last time they met the Broncos dominated a hapless Raiders outfit 28-4 in round 13 last year.
What Are The Odds: The money is coming in to Sportsbet at the rate of 3:1 in favour of the Broncos. According to Sportsbet, Brisbane 13+ has been the most popular in margin betting. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Steve Carall and Lawrence McDonnell. Video Referees: Steve Clark and Luke Phillips.
Televised: Live Fox Sports, 5:30pm
The Way We See It: It will be a high-scoring match, with the Raiders putting on the most points of any team this season with 263, while the Broncos are third with 229. The Broncos have the far worse preparation for Saturday’s games, their Origin stars will be battered and bruised, while the rest of the squad have a short turnaround after Monday night’s game. The Raiders have no excuse to lose this one, but somehow managed to let last week’s Bulldogs game slip in easier circumstances. We don’t think they’ll do that twice in a row. They’ll bounce back from their slide with a 10 point win.