Bulldogs v Broncos preview
Canterbury Bulldogs v Brisbane Broncos
This is a serious heavyweight clash to round out your Super Saturday as two of the genuine grand final contenders face off at ANZ Stadium.
Don't let Canterbury's eighth-place ladder ranking fool you; they're just a win behind the third-placed Roosters and the powerful way they disposed of the Storm before last week's bye would have put all the sides above them on notice.
The Broncos meanwhile are well and truly above the radar now in outright first place after 17 rounds having just about got through the tricky Origin period unscathed.
Speaking of Origin, this game will feature easily the highest number of players backing up from Origin III of all the games this weekend, and it remains to be seen how many of those will be available.
For Brisbane, centre Justin Hodges has not been named but fellow Maroons Sam Thaiday, Darius Boyd, Corey Parker and Matt Gillett have been named. Daniel Vidot's return on the wing moves Corey Oates to the bench and Dale Copley out of the side and Jack Reed comes back in the centres in places of Hodges. Sam Thaiday returns at prop as a straight swap for the injured Josh McGuire.
The Bulldogs have made just one named change to the side that thumped Melbourne at Belmore the previous Monday with Josh Jackson returning from suspension pushing Shaun Lane to 18th man, although with three props on the bench he may yet come into the 17.
Watch out Bulldogs: The Broncos, to the surprise of many, have turned into a serious attacking force under Wayne Bennett this year. They are the best attacking side with the most points and the most tries at just over four per game. This comes despite being tackled inside the opposition 30 less often than any other side. This suggests two things: once they get inside the red zone they are efficient at getting over the stripe; secondly, they are laying on some of the most impressive long-range efforts you'll ever see with two strong candidates already for team try of the year.
Watch out Broncos: The powerful Bulldogs pack marched all over the Storm last start and that was no slouch of a pack, featuring the likes of internationals Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor and Tohu Harris. NSW wrecking ball David Klemmer did the most damage but the pack worked well as a unit and other big men Aiden Tolman, Sam Kasiano and Shaun Lane were a massive handful. The blue and whites are currently ranked second for metres after contact when hitting the ball up among all sides in the NRL.
They are averaging 563.8 metres per game after contact for a season tally of 8457 metres. Aidan Tolman leads the bulldogs with 74 metres post-contact in the last four games.
Key Match-Up: Moses Mbye v Anthony Milford. These two young playmakers are in great form; Mbye to the point he is keeping representative playmaker Josh Reynolds out of the starting side while ex-fullback Milford has made a great fist of his new position after a bit of a teething period at the start of the year. Milford is a supreme support player who is bagging far more tries (eight, versus Mbye's three) while Mbye only has a 6-5 edge in try assists. Bear in mind Mbye has played plenty of games at centre and off the bench however; his form starting in the halves over the past month has been top shelf.
The History: Played 46; Bulldogs 19, Broncos 26, Drawn 1. The past 10 games between these two are split five apiece although the Broncos have won the past three straight. Brisbane have lost four of their past five visits to ANZ, three of those four coming against Canterbury.
What Are The Odds: With the money running three to one in favour of Brisbane, the Broncos have been the big firmers as the week has progressed. It shapes as a close one, with Sportsbet reporting most interest has been for either side to win 1-12. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Jared Maxwell & Gavin Morris; touch judges: Brett Suttor & Matt Noyen; Video Referees: Shayne Hayne & Daniel Irvine.
Televised: Fox Sports, Live, 7.30pm.
The Way We See It: This is a serious heavyweight clash and much will depend on how each side's large Origin contingent pulls through Wednesday night's decider, but barring a lopsided injury toll out of that game we'll lean towards the home team – but only just.