Brisbane Broncos v Wests Tigers
The premiers of 2006 and 2005 respectively are both still in search of former glories as we celebrate Heritage Round this week but it is very much the Broncos who are bringing back memories of the good ol' days.
Built on a mix of defence ranked second for tackle effectiveness and an attack that is ranked equal first for total tries scored, the Broncos are looking more like the powerhouse team of the past and not the valiant side that scraped into the finals last season.
With the rare opportunity to play on a Sunday afternoon their attacking potency will only be enhanced and with their Origin stars – with the exception of Josh McGuire – back and at the peak of their powers their push for a fifth minor premiership hits full swing.
The Tigers have been bolstered by the return of halfback Luke Brooks but face a tough assignment to arrest a three-game losing streak that preceded last weekend's bye.
Robbie Farah seems certain to miss his second game at Suncorp Stadium in two weeks with his replacement at hooker, Dene Halatau, to play his 150th game for the club more than 12 years since he played his first.
Notwithstanding McGuire's season-ending injury the return of captain Justin Hodges makes this Broncos outfit as strong as it can get and on track to continue their dominance of the men wearing black and gold that currently sits at five straight wins.
Watch Out Broncos: The Wayne Bennett tip-sheet will be a simple one this weekend: Get Tedesco. The brilliant Tigers fullback is far and away his team's most effective attacking weapon with his 116 tackle busts almost double the next best at the club and 30 clear of Rooster Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the NRL in 2015. Add to that eight line-break assists, eight line breaks and seven try assists and you have a Level One threat that puts the best defenders on edge.
Watch Out Tigers: They're starting to sniff a premiership around the streets of Brisbane and leading the way are two men who know what it takes to get to the first weekend in October and lift the trophy aloft. Two of just four remaining Broncos from the 2006 grand final-winning team, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker came out of the third Origin with their tails up and were among their team's best in their win over the Bulldogs last week. Thaiday scored a try, saved another with two minutes left to play and ran for 138 metres while Parker complemented a game-high 182m with five offloads that continually turned the big Bulldogs forwards inside out. There's still plenty of life in these two old boys.
Key Match-up: Ben Hunt v Luke Brooks. Their teams may occupy very different positions on the ladder but statistically there is little to separate two of the most exciting young halves in the competition. Brooks makes his return to the Tigers team after missing the loss to the Eels in Round 17 with a shoulder injury and with 12 try assists is integral to the Tigers' chances of breaking down the resolute Brisbane defence. He has four more try assists and three more tries than Hunt, while the Broncos halfback's 19 offloads dwarf Brooks's five and Hunt also has two more line-break assists than his opposite No.7. Hunt's contribution is one aspect to a team effort while Brooks is the key creative force in a team struggling to avoid the wooden spoon.
History: Played 23; Broncos 18, Wests Tigers 4, Drawn 1. There were encouraging signs for the new merged entity when the Wests Tigers and Broncos fought out an entertaining 24-all draw in Round 1, 2000, a match that was played on February 6 in the year of the Sydney Olympics. But it's been a horror story ever since for the Tigers with just four wins, the last of which was in Round 17, 2010. Surprisingly though, three of the four Tigers wins over Brisbane have come at Suncorp Stadium.
Did You Know: In his decorated playing career Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor scored exactly 100 points in 18 games against the Broncos, recording 10 wins, seven losses and the one draw. In that points tally was six field goals, the most one-pointers Taylor ever kicked against a single team, and three of those were match-winning field goals playing for Western Suburbs and North Sydney. Taylor was also a member of the only Northern Eagles team to knock off the Broncos in their five meetings.
What Are The Odds: The Broncos are all the rage with Sportsbet, with three times as much money placed on the Broncos as the Tigers in head-to-head betting. Not even the tempting price for the Tigers has enticed punters to have a crack. More money has been placed on the Broncos to win 13+ than on all of the other options combined. One punter fancies Jack Reed's form of late, putting $450 on him at $10 to be first try-scorer. There has also been a wager on the first try being a penalty try at $151! Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee: Henry Perenara; Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Clayton Sharpe; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Phillips.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 3.30pm.
How We See It: It was a sunny Sunday afternoon at Lang Park 27 years ago that the Broncos legend was born and it would take one of the upsets of the season for them not to easily account for the Tigers this weekend. The Tigers have just one win from their past eight games as the Broncos have ridden a six-game winning streak to the top of the table. The likes of Aaron Woods and Martin Taupau will take the fight to the Broncos but it looks like being one way traffic. Broncos by 16.