Schick Hydro Preview: Brisbane Broncos v Wests Tigers
That was the thoughts of many a rugby league fan this week when the Mitchell Moses dramas at the Wests Tigers reached a long-awaited conclusion.
After months of speculation about his future, the former Tigers half has officially joined the Parramatta Eels effective immediately, but will it make a difference?
It marks the end of the biggest distraction at Wests this season, with the team being tested on and off the field.
But perhaps the greatest test will be this week when they travel to Suncorp Stadium to take on the red-hot Brisbane Broncos on Friday night.
The Broncos are distraction-free and have won their past five matches to sit in the top four with an impressive 7-3 record.
Last week's 24-14 come-from-behind victory over the Manly Sea Eagles proved one thing to their rivals – Brisbane are hungry to win.
Trailing 14-0 after 10 minutes it would have been easy to give up and roll over, but the Broncos continued to defy their critics and record a comprehensive victory.
Wayne Bennett's team only gets stronger this week, with star centre James Roberts returning at centre. First-choice halfback Ben Hunt is a good chance of playing after being included among the reserves.
No Moses means Jack Littlejohn will start at five-eighth, while Aaron Woods returns at prop for Ava Seumanufagai. Kyle Lovett replaces Michael Chee Kam on the bench.
Why the Broncos can win: The Broncos have won five games in a row without playing anywhere near their best football. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it looks like it might be this week that the team goes up a gear. Two vital attacking weapons in Hunt and Roberts will return against the third worst defensive team in the competition and that spells trouble for a Wests side down on confidence. The Tigers conceded 28 points to an out-of-form South Sydney Rabbitohs team in Round 10 and if they turn up to Lang Park with the same attitude then they will be torn apart.
Why the Tigers can win: With Moses officially departing and Aaron Woods returning, Wests can finally focus on things happening on the field. Woods is a huge inclusion because he not only brings a skillset not many front-row forwards in the NRL possess, he also brings much-needed leadership. The captain of the Tigers can set an example this week by leading his team to victory against all odds and that task is something he will relish. The naming of Woods is a huge boost to the go-forward of the Tigers' forward pack after a deplorable performance in Round 10, with prop Ava Seumanufagai the only forward in the side to run for over 65 metres for the match. If Woods can get his team marching down the field then the Tigers might just be a chance of causing an upset.
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Tackle Breaks, All Run Metres, Try Assists, Tries.
The history: Played 25; Broncos 19; Wests Tigers 5; Drawn 1. The Tigers won the only meeting between these two sides in 2016, with a Moses field goal helping his side get home 19-18 in a thrilling contest. Before that win, Wests had been on the receiving end of six straight losses to the Broncos, none more demoralising than Brisbane's 42-16 win in 2015. In fact, the club has won just four times from 13 attempts at Suncorp Stadium. Perhaps the most telling statistic is that the Tigers have not scored more than 20 points in a game against Brisbane since their 34-22 loss to the Broncos in Round 8 of the 2008 season. Brisbane winger Corey Oates likes taking on the Tigers, scoring three tries in his last three games against them.
What are the odds: The extremely short odds for the Broncos is scaring off Sportsbet punters, and while twice as many bets have been placed on Brisbane there's only 25 per cent more money on the home side so there's a little bit of support for the under-siege Wests Tigers. In handicap betting, there's actually more interest in the Tigers, who get a very healthy points start. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins; Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges: Rohan Best & Brett Suttor; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7:30pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 7:30pm.
NRL.com predicts: A new halves pairing will not help the Tigers on Friday night and if their Round 10 performance is anything to go by they will need all the help they can get to come away with a win at this point of the season. The Broncos are on fire and have an excellent record at home, losing only once at Suncorp Stadium this year. Brisbane look to be the real deal this season and should win this clash easily. Broncos by 16.