Schick Hydro Preview Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys
Friday, 8.05pm AEDT
The closest thing to State of Origin football will take place on Friday night when the Cowboys travel to Brisbane to take on their biggest rivals.
The Broncos will be out for revenge after the Cowboys ended their season with a dramatic extra-time semi-final win in 2016.
12 months before that it was North Queensland who again had the last laugh, taking home the premiership and breaking Brisbane hearts with a one-point win in the NRL grand final.
We've quite simply seen it all from these two teams over the past three years and Friday's match-up promises to deliver more of the same.
No rivalry in the NRL currently compares to the Queensland derby and it will no doubt mean more than just two competition points.
Wayne Bennett has not made any changes to his 17 this week, but Benji Marshall and Kodi Nikorima are in the 21-man squad if he decides a utility is needed on Brisbane's bench.
For the Cowboys, Antonio Winterstein has been named to make his return from injury, with Javid Bowen dropping back to the reserves alongside fellow wingers Gideon Gela-Mosby and Kalyn Ponga.
Why the Broncos can win: Two words – Anthony Milford. The star five-eighth was instrumental in Brisbane's Round 1 victory over the Sharks, scoring a try, setting up another and breaking Cronulla-Sutherland's line twice. If the Broncos are to win against their rivals Milford will have to put in another standout performance. Halfback Ben Hunt struggled to find form last week and if that happens again it will be up to Milford to lift his side. The 22-year-old was a huge factor the last time Brisbane met the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, slotting a 40m field goal in golden point to deliver his side the win.
Why the Cowboys can win: Many thought the loss of props James Tamou and Ben Hannant might stifle North Queensland's go-forward in 2017, but last week's performance against the Raiders proved otherwise. Queensland representative Matt Scott ran for 200m, with the ever-reliable Scott Bolton running for 166m of his own. But the standout was New Zealand international Jason Taumalolo, running for a huge 295m in a barnstorming display. If these three can repeat that this week then Brisbane will find it hard to stop the likes of Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan working their magic off the back of this momentum.
Key match-up: Josh McGuire v Jason Taumalolo. Brisbane's new lock will face arguably the best forward in the game on Friday night in what will be his biggest challenge yet. As mentioned earlier, Taumalolo was an absolute wrecking ball in Round 1, making eight tackle breaks and trampling the Raiders' defence in the process. McGuire is new to the position after Corey Parker's retirement, but he must quickly adapt to the added workload associated with the No.13 jersey. He and the Brisbane forward pack will need to shutdown Taumalolo or else the Cowboys will find it far too easy to march up the field.
 Telstra Premiership: Josh McGuire vs Jason Taumalolo
All Run Metres, Tackles, Tackle Breaks, Offloads.
The history: Played 46; Broncos 30; Cowboys 14; Drawn 2. The last five matches between these two teams have been decided by six points or less, with three of those going to extra-time. Brisbane hold the advantage at Suncorp Stadium, winning their last five against North Queensland at the venue. It means the Cowboys haven't won at Lang Park since 2012 – a factor that will be sure to play in the Broncos' favour.
What are the odds: This is easily the most even betting game of the round. The early money was with North Queensland but things have evened up, making it a great battle for favouritism. Both the Broncos and Cowboys have been backed to win 1-12 with Sportsbet, with very little interest in either side to win 13+. Corey Oates is a clear favourite in the first try-scorer market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin; Assistant Referee: Alan Shortall; Touch Judges: Jeff Younis & Michael Wise; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 8:00pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 8:00pm.
How we see it: This one is well and truly a toss of the coin. There is no doubt that it will be won with one act of individual brilliance that breaks the game open, but who does that is anyone's guess. The Broncos' record against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium has us leaning towards a win for Brisbane, but if the Broncos do get up it will be by the smallest of margins. Brisbane by one point.