Schick Hydro Preview: Brisbane Broncos v Warriors
Friday, 7.05pm (AEST)
Twenty-one years and one day to the day of their first meeting in 1995, many similarities can be drawn between the Broncos and Warriors as they prepare to clash for the 37th time on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The Broncos have re-established themselves as one of the powerhouses of the competition while Warriors fans are placing all their faith in a handful of fresh faces who many believe can usher in a new era of success for the club.
Excitement at securing the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Issac Luke in the off-season rivalled that of John Kirwan, Greg Alexander and Denis Betts for their inaugural season 21 years ago, yet their first-up effort against the Wests Tigers last weekend left a lot to be desired.
The Broncos showed the resolve that took them all the way to the grand final in accounting for the Eels 17-4 on Thursday night, while the Warriors missed the jump completely three days later and trailed 16-0 after only 18 minutes.
The Broncos have lost Jordan Kahu with a quad injury but have been able to name Jack Reed to make his return from shoulder surgery in his place. Promising young forward Joe Boyce has been named as 18th man should Reed not take his place in the side and Alex Glenn is used at left centre.
The Warriors have also made the one change due to injury with the luckless Ben Henry (knee) out and Raymond Faitala-Mariner coming onto the bench. Bodene Thompson moves into the starting team for Henry.
The more things change the more they stay the same; let's see if the Warriors can emulate their trailblazers and give the Broncos an almighty scare.
Watch out Broncos: After one of the poorest displays in the first half of a new season there will be some sort of a bounce-back from the Warriors but it will need to be significant against the Broncos. Incredibly the Warriors completed 15 of 16 first half sets but looked generally disinterested in attack and in defence they missed 22 tackles and leaked five tries in the opening 40 minutes as the Wests Tigers shot out to a 28-6 lead. Issac Luke was kept to just 22 running metres from dummy half and Tuivasa-Sheck struggled to assert himself on the game; those two in particular need to lift their input and put their team on the front foot early. If they can do that, the rest of the team will soon jump on board.
Watch out Warriors: Unlike the Warriors, the Parramatta defence showed plenty of commitment last week but still Broncos winger Corey Oates made it look flimsy. The frightening prospect of the 21-year-old being bigger and stronger in 2016 appears to have come true after Oates had a field day against the Eels, running for 193 metres, scoring a try and showing deft skill to set up another for Anthony Milford. After one round of footy he shares the most number of line breaks (three) with Marika Koroibete and his six tackle busts put him in the company of Greg Inglis, James Tedesco and Jack Bird. His time on the wing may be short-lived but it is going to be damaging while it lasts.
Key match-up: Anthony Milford v Shaun Johnson.
With both men operating at optimum capacity there may not be a more exciting match-up in the game today, if ever! Milford has quickly blossomed from an electrifying fullback into a world class five-eighth while Johnson manages to feature on highlight reels even when his team is getting soundly beaten. The pair face-off as opposing five-eighths for the first time on Friday and Milford will be hoping for a far different result to when he and Johnson both wore the No.7 jersey in 2013. In Milford's only game at halfback to date Johnson gave the young Raider a dose of his own medicine, scoring three tries and kicking seven goals in the Warriors' 50-16 victory. It was a similar tale when they met a year later with Johnson scoring two tries and kicking nine goals against Milford's Canberra, the Warriors winning 54-12.
The history: Played 36; Broncos 21, Warriors 15. The Broncos were the Warriors' first opponent when they entered the ARL in 1995 and while they gave them a scare, it took until 2001 before the New Zealanders registered their first win. The ledger has been more evenly shared in recent years with the Warriors winning four of the past seven clashes including a 56-18 flogging at Suncorp Stadium in 2013. All told the Warriors have just four wins from 11 previous visits to Suncorp Stadium.
What are the odds? Broncos $1.33, Warriors $3.30. Brisbane have been shortening all week after opening at $1.50 and Sportsbet are reporting twice as much money on them to win 13-plus as there is on a Broncos victory by 1-12 points. Oates has upstaged speedster James Roberts as the best backed for first try-scorer although Roberts maintains the shortest price at $9. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton; Assistant Referee: Matt Noyen; Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Clayton Sharpe; Review Officials: Luke Patten and Jason Robinson; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel Nine (Live) – 7pm (Qld), 7.30pm (NSW); Fox Sports (Live) – 6pm (Qld), 7pm (NSW)
The way we see it: If the Warriors even closely resemble the outfit that played at Campbelltown in Round 1 in terms of their effort then the Broncos are in for a field day. But that's the thing about the Warriors, they could very easily jump out of the blocks and score the first three tries of the game. We know exactly what the Broncos will produce but the same can't be said of their opponents. They will be better but we see no reason to suggest they can match the professionalism of Brisbane for 80 minutes. Broncos by 14 points.