Broncos v Titans preview
Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast
When the Titans entered the National Rugby League in 2007 the Broncos were the defending premiers and very much the kingpin of rugby league in south-east Queensland; nine seasons on and it appears that little has changed.
Wayne Bennett is back in charge at Red Hill, they are sitting pretty at the top of the table and the prospect of little brother from down the M1 coming to town has fans frothing at the mouth.
When the Broncos last won the Telstra Premiership they went into Round 20 in third position with 11 wins and six losses but not even Bennett himself could have predicted that in 2015 they would be 14-3 and with the minor premiership well in their sights.
Two awful displays in the space of six days has seen Titans coach Neil Henry wield the axe while Bennett has simply been able to dig into a squad brimming with depth and confidence to replace the suspended Jack Reed in his squad with Brisbane's top try-scorer from 2014, Dale Copley, who scored twice for Norths Devils last weekend.
The highest profile casualty at the Titans is Dave Taylor who has been omitted for a second time this season with Anthony Don, Chad Redman and Nathaniel Peteru also overlooked as Aidan Sezer, Kevin Gordon, Lachlan Burr and Matthew White all return.
The only other change in the Broncos' 17 is on the bench with Kodi Nikorima returning at the expense of Matt Parcell who put in an eye-catching display against the Wests Tigers on Sunday.
The Broncos are searching for an eighth-straight win as the Titans try to avoid a fifth consecutive loss at a ground where they haven't tasted success since their first visit in 2007.
If this was a game of backyard footy, Mum would step in and refuse to let them play each other.
Watch Out Broncos: If there isn't a bounce-back from the Titans facing up to the big brother Broncos following two insipid performances against Manly and Newcastle then there are serious dramas on the glitter strip. At $5 with Sportsbet to topple the ladder-leading Broncos no one expects the Titans to get close, which is often when they produce their best efforts. Having Aidan Sezer back to partner Kane Elgey in the halves is a bonus but there must be a collective resolve in the squad of 17 to deliver an 80-minute performance their fans can at least be proud of. Do that and the result will take care of itself.
Watch Out Titans: After a month of finding his feet in Brisbane Anthony Milford burst to life in Round 5 against the Titans with two tries and he hasn't looked back since. He has scored eight tries in 13 games starting that night on the Gold Coast and his eight try assists for the season are second only to Justin Hodges of the players taking the field in this one. His individual brilliance is unquestioned but his burgeoning ability to make those around him more dangerous promises to be Milford's most effective attacking weapon.
Key Match-Up: Darius Boyd v Josh Hoffman. Getting one over the man who forced you out of the club won't change anything but it would certainly provide a nice sense of self satisfaction for Titans fullback Josh Hoffman. When it became clear Wayne Bennett would be bringing Darius Boyd back to Brisbane to play fullback come hell or high water, Hoffman began looking elsewhere and has proved to be a wonderful contributor in his first year at the Titans. One of only three Gold Coast players to have appeared in all 17 games to date, Hoffman's stint at five-eighth came to an end last weekend and he can return to fullback where he has five try saves and 55 tackle busts this season. Boyd's class has been evident since his return from an Achilles injury – and stints with St George Illawarra and Newcastle – in Round 9 and his flourishing combinations with halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford will be key in Brisbane's premiership push in the weeks to come.
History: Played 18; Broncos 13; Titans 5. After they notched a first-up win in 2007 the Titans have made eight subsequent trips to Suncorp Stadium to play the Broncos and have come away empty handed on each occasion. Last year they lost 22-8 having led 8-4 at half-time and their biggest loss to the Broncos was a 32-6 drubbing at Suncorp in Round 10, 2013.
Did You Know: The Titans are one of only three teams that Broncos veteran Corey Parker has never scored a try against. Playing in his 15th NRL season and preparing for game number 314 on Friday night, Parker has scored 34 career tries but never against the Titans, St George Illawarra or the Roosters. Although tries have been hard to come by, Parker's 52 goals in 17 games against the Titans are the most he has kicked against any club.
What Are The Odds: Sportsbet are struggling to find many punters willing to take the big price on offer for the Titans in head-to-head betting. Brisbane have also been sensationally backed to cover the line which opened at -15.5. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Adam Devcich; Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton; Touch Judges: Nick Beashel and Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (Qld); Delayed 9.30pm (NSW)
How We See It: The greatest joys in life come when you least expect them and for Titans fans a win over the Broncos on Friday night would rank among their most cherished and unexpected victories. Anything less than a completely committed 80-minute performance will result in heavy defeat but after what they have dished up the past fortnight perhaps there is one big effort left in them. It's said that form can be ignored when it comes to a local derby but whichever way you look at it this appears certain to be a big Brisbane victory. Broncos by 24 points.