Sea Eagles v Broncos: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos
Suncorp Stadium
Saturday, 7:50PM 

Will James Roberts play? Will Queensland coach Kevin Walters pick Daly Cherry-Evans or Anthony Milford in his Maroons side? Are Manly the real deal in 2017? 

These are just some of the questions that should have an answer by the end of what is the second game of the NRL's double-header at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night. 

Manly travel up to Suncorp Stadium to host Brisbane and although it is a Sea Eagles home game there will be overwhelming support for the hometown Broncos. 

It is a match that will have many storylines and none may have a larger impact on the match than the fitness of Broncos star Roberts. 

Roberts is the form centre of the competition, but an ankle injury is threatening to sideline him from the game and hinder his chances of a New South Wales debut. 

However, in what is the NRL's Indigenous Round, fans can be sure that Roberts will do his all to prove his fitness and represent his people.

It is that time of year where State of Origin murmurs start to develop into full-blown talk and there is no hotter topic at the moment than the potential replacement of the injured Johnathan Thurston. 

Cherry-Evans and Milford are two leading candidates to receive the call-up to the Queensland side but a lot of that will depend on who outplays who on Saturday night. 

If Cherry-Evans is to put in a good performance then there is a fair chance his side will prove to the doubters that they are a threat in 2017. 

Picked by many to finish in the bottom four, the Sea Eagles have continued to put on an attacking masterclass all year and if it continues they could be in the top four by the end of the round. 

Manly are unchanged after their big win over the Rabbitohs in Round 9 while Roberts is on the extended bench for the Broncos. If he doesn't play then David Mead will start on the wing and forward George Fai will make his NRL debut off the bench.

Why the Sea Eagles can win: Manly's attack this year has been on fire, with Trent Barrett's men having accumulated the second most points in the competition. Their 216 points in nine games is only nine behind the stuttering St George Illawarra Dragons and a strong performance on Saturday night should see the Sea Eagles become the most lethal attacking team in the NRL. This is largely in part to halfback Cherry-Evans' fine form. Cherry-Evans leads the competition for try assists and in the current form he is in wouldn't look out of place in a Queensland Maroons jersey if Thurston is declared unfit to play. Manly have score the equal-most tries this season with 39 and if they continue at that rate on Saturday then they will be hard to beat. 

Why the Broncos can win: If this game was at Lottoland then the Sea Eagles would have the upper hand, but the club's decision to move their home game to Suncorp Stadium puts Brisbane in a very favourable position. The Broncos have been almost unbeatable at home this year, winning four of five matches. Their only loss came against a red-hot North Queensland Cowboys outfit in Round 2, losing to a Thurston field goal in golden point extra-time. Suncorp Stadium has become Brisbane's fortress and the statistics prove this. The Broncos have won eight of their last nine at the ground, outscoring their opponents 247-149 in the process. This, accompanied with the Sea Eagles' poor record of late at the ground, spells trouble for Manly.  

 

The history: Played 42; Sea Eagles 21; Broncos 20; Drawn 1. Manly have won six of the last nine between the two sides but the last six clashes are split at three wins apiece. Brisbane have won their last three against the Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium by an average margin of 28 points. Manly haven't won at the venue since 2013, losing by 24 points or more in those last three meetings at Lang Park. Anthony Milford has four tries in his last three games against the Sea Eagles, including two in last year's 30-6 win. 

What are the odds: Sportsbet punters can't decide between these two teams with the money split 50/50 in the head-to-head market and hardly any money for either side to win 13+. Corey Oates is the best backed for first try scorer ahead of Dylan Walker. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.

Match officials: Referee: Ashley Klein. Assistant Referee: Jon Stone. Touch Judges: Michael Wise & Nick Morel. Review Official: Steve Chiddy. Senior RO: Luke Patten.   

Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 7:30PM. 

How we see it: For many this is the game of the week and the result should reflect that. It's going to be a very tight contest with both sides playing for so much heading into the State of Origin period. The Broncos' superior record at Suncorp Stadium has us leaning towards Brisbane, but Manly will be sure to put up a fight. Broncos by 7.