Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Stand next to them as they take to the field and you will be left in no doubt that there is plenty of size in the Dogs in this fight, but do they have the fight in them to prove they have genuine premiership claims against the competition leaders five weeks out from the finals?
Canterbury were thrilling, ferocious and breathtaking in fighting back from an 18-0 deficit to lead the Roosters late in one of the most entertaining games of the season last Friday night but that counts for exactly zero when they step onto Suncorp Stadium.
In their nine wins to date the Bulldogs have only defeated two teams currently in the top eight and are clinging on to their finals foothold courtesy of a superior points differential over the Warriors.
Their assignment could be made more difficult if Greg Eastwood is unsuccessful in challenging his Dangerous Contact charge at the judiciary on Wednesday night but Curtis Rona, Aiden Tolman and Frank Pritchard are all notable inclusions.
History is also against the Bulldogs having lost their past three games in Brisbane and four in a row to the Broncos.
The Broncos suffered their equal heaviest defeat of the season last Saturday in Gosford to a resurgent Sea Eagles outfit but have won their past four games at home by a combined scoreline of 164-48 and boast a healthy roster after Jordan Kahu was given the all-clear to take his place in the team.
A month is a long time in rugby league but it may not be enough for Canterbury to exact revenge for their 16-8 defeat at the hands of the Broncos at ANZ Stadium in Round 18.
Watch Out Broncos: Losing an Origin half is normally a setback for any team but Moses Mbye's extended stay in the Bulldogs' starting team following an injury to Josh Reynolds could be a blessing in disguise.
Mbye engineered Canterbury's stunning comeback against the Roosters last Friday night with some superb pass selection that led to three try assists and he is clearly emerging as one of the hottest young halves in the game. Born in Brisbane and a two-time Queensland under-20s representative, Mbye's only first grade exposure to Suncorp Stadium was a trial game against the Storm last year so you can bet he'll be primed for a big game at the spiritual home of Queensland rugby league.
Watch Out Bulldogs: He brought up his 300th game in Round 1 and now Corey Parker is in sight of another significant milestone. Parker needs just eight points to surpass Darren Lockyer as the Broncos' greatest ever point-scorer and he'd love nothing more than to mark the occasion with a performance that helps to secure his team two competition points. In a well beaten team last Saturday in Gosford Parker ran for 169 metres from 16 carries and made 29 tackles and four tackle busts despite going into the game hampered by an injury picked up a week prior. Against the monstrous Bulldogs pack expect nothing less than another whole-hearted performance from the 33-year-old.
Key Match-up: Darius Boyd v Brett Morris. Two of the premier fullbacks in the competition have missed their share of football having joined new clubs in 2015 but both now shape as key instruments in the premiership push of their respective teams. Boyd is growing in confidence each week in his body and his combination with halves Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford while Morris has seven line breaks, 12 offloads and five tries from his first 10 games as fullback for the Bulldogs. Morris also has 10 tries in 15 previous games against the Broncos but has rarely been on the winning side, losing 10 of those clashes, while Boyd's record against the Bulldogs is an impressive 14-4.
History: Played 47; Broncos 27; Bulldogs 19; Drawn 1. A month since they last faced off, the Broncos are looking for a fifth straight win over the Bulldogs having triumphed 16-8 at ANZ Stadium in Round 18. The Bulldogs won their first four games against Brisbane at the then-Lang Park but have had more of a lean trot of late, losing their past three dating back to Round 12, 2011.
Did You Know: The Broncos scored 28 unanswered points in the second half of the 1998 Grand Final against the Bulldogs to claim the first premiership under the National Rugby League banner. Having beaten the Bulldogs twice during the season, the Broncos went into the break trailing 12-10 courtesy of tries to Tony Grimaldi and Willie Talau. But the 1997 Super League champions clicked into gear to score five straight tries in the second term to record at the time the biggest grand final victory since 1975.
What Are The Odds: Broncos $1.42, Bulldogs $2.85. Sportsbet have received three times the amount of money on the Broncos, and twice as many individual bets. Punters aren’t shy about backing the Broncos at the line, either. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Ben Cummins; Assistant Referee: Gavin Morris; Touch Judges: Nick Beashel and Russell Turner; Video Referees: Ashley Klein and Ben Galea.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (Qld); Delayed 9.30pm (NSW).
How We See It: Despite being blown off the park early the Bulldogs showed last week against the Roosters that their best is capable of beating any team but they desperately need to chalk up some more wins to ensure their spot in September football. They do have games against the Titans and Knights in coming weeks but this represents a great opportunity to push for a home final in Week One of the finals series. For the Broncos, they need to show that last week's defeat won't undo 20 weeks of good work. Broncos by two points.