Broncos v Storm: The Final Word
The Broncos prepare to farewell captain Justin Hodges in a positive frame of mind while the Storm are refreshed after a Sunshine Coast camp ahead of their Thursday night blockbuster at Suncorp Stadium.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett on...
The farewell to Justin Hodges: "He's been one of the best players here for a long period of time without being in the Lockyer category, but he's not far behind him. It's fitting that he should finish this way and we're all pleased for him. He's happy and you can see the happiness in him and he's looking forward to each game now knowing that it's coming to an end. He'd be the only one that knows how much pain he goes through to prepare and play and go through all the training he's had to go through with all the injuries he's had in his career."
The challenge of beating the Storm: "They turn up most weeks trying pretty hard for their club and doing their best. There are not many bad weeks that they have in a season. They had a bit of a hiccup the other day against Newcastle but their form's been really good before that and they played well last weekend. They always like playing the Broncos so they'll come here ready to play tomorrow."
Positive mindset of his players: "The season's behind us and the good times are about to start. They've done a great job and put themselves in a wonderful position so why wouldn't they be happy? That's the way you want them. It's a pretty hard game to play and you'll find all the clubs that aren't in the eight haven't enjoyed themselves I can tell you. You want them to enjoy themselves at the same time as taking responsibility that goes with competing and playing every week and they've done that great."
Storm coach Craig Bellamy on...
Sunshine Coast preparation: "We haven’t done a whole heap of work up here to be honest; with the five-day turnaround we've rested the guys more than anything else. It's been nice and relaxed, but when it's been time to do a bit of work with the meetings and the light session we had the other night the boys have been really good. Hopefully it will freshen us up a little bit."
Ben Hunt's omission from the Broncos team: "There could be reasons for that – he might be injured or Wayne [Bennett] might be looking to give him a rest, I don't know. That's not our concern – we can't be worried about that. We can only play who Wayne names and puts out there. That's his business and I don't see it as a lack of respect. Wayne is man-managing his team the best way he thinks and that's fine with us."
Injuries to key players opening up the finals race: "This time of year I can't remember so many teams being without some of their key players. Obviously that hasn’t helped those teams but having said that, we've had our share [of injuries] as well. We lost Billy Slater [shoulder] halfway through the year and Dale [Finucane, dislocated arm] has been a loss for us in the last couple of weeks as well. It seems to be survival of the fittest at this time of year and hopefully we can stay fit into September."
Market update: The money is running 8:1 in favour of the Broncos in head-to-head betting, with the bulk of that support coming in the last 24 hours. Sportsbet drifted the Broncos from $1.56 out to $1.72 after the withdrawals of Ben Hunt and Jordan Kahu but it hasn't deterred punters at all. Brisbane 1-12 at $3 is the way to go according to punters, rather than 13-plus. Kahu was the best backed to score the first try until his omission, with Corey Oates and Lachlan Maranta now the most popular.
Injury news: The loss of halfback Ben Hunt is the biggest blow to the Broncos who have also given Jordan Kahu the week off to rest a shoulder complaint. Ashley Taylor will make his NRL debut in place of Hunt with Lachlan Maranta returning to first grade for the first time in three weeks. Jarrod Wallace also comes into the starting team with second-rower Alex Glenn serving a week's suspension. The Storm are expected to send out the same 17 who defeated the Cowboys 14-6 last weekend.