Broncos v Tigers: Five key points
Stage set for Milford tug-o-war, tough night for Tigers' Origin hopefuls, Broncos bolster pre-Origin points and the fragility of our heroes exposed again.
Fight over Milford to heat up
A showdown is looming between Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and Maroons mentor Kevin Walters after Anthony Milford again demonstrated that he is the man who should be first in line to replace Johnathan Thurston if he is unfit for Origin I.
On a dreary night in Brisbane and with a committed Wests Tigers team for the opening 20 minutes, Milford turned a contest into a demolition with some deft passing and clever kicking in behind the Wests Tigers line.
His pass to Kodi Nikorima opened up the space for Tautau Moga's try in the 14th minute and then it was Milford who hit Alex Glenn, Jordan Kahu and Korbin Sims short close to the Tigers line for a procession of tries and a 24-0 lead at the break.
In the lead-up to the game Bennett made it clear that Milford would not be released from his Broncos duties against the Warriors in order to be part of a Queensland extended bench, Walters suggesting he may need to send a box of chocolates around to soften Wayne's mood.
He may need something stronger if he reads his name out beyond the first 17 jerseys on Monday afternoon.
Tigers' Origin hopefuls left feeling Blue
Given the pre-game withdrawals of both Chris Lawrence and Luke Brooks on top of the mid-week departure of five-eighth Mitchell Moses, Tigers stars Aaron Woods and James Tedesco were always going to have a difficult time pressing their claims for Origin selection.
Woods's return from a hamstring injury got off to an inauspicious start when an offload in the opening set went to ground and cost his team five metres but as the half wore on he was far and away Wests' most effective forward, running for 67 metres in 32 minutes in his first stint – more than double the next best Tigers forward in the first half.
Tedesco played with his customary energy and proved difficult to contain but a passage of play just past the half-hour mark where he was denied a try, threw an intercept and was sin-binned for holding down in the ensuing tackle on Jordan Kahu put his team on the back foot.
He was denied two more tries in the second half but never stopped trying and was more the victim of circumstance than any poor performance on his own behalf.
They were a class above their Wests Tigers teammates but for Origin I at least they may be hoping that Blues coach Laurie Daley has a long memory.
Broncos build handy pre-Origin bank
It's the time of year where Wayne Bennett knows competition points must be harvested and on the back of six consecutive wins the Broncos can head into the Origin period potentially on top of the table after their mauling of the Wests Tigers on Friday night.
The bolster to their points differential that came from the 36-0 cakewalk catapulted them to the top of the Telstra Premiership ladder until at least the Storm take on the Rabbitohs on Sunday evening and with an under-manned team to head to New Zealand next weekend it's the ideal position for Bennett's men at this point of the season.
Break-up of Boyd-Oates combination a shame for Maroons
Darius Boyd's out-ball to Corey Oates has become a major attacking weapon for the Broncos the past two years but given the likely return of Billy Slater to the Origin arena this year it might be confined to club games for the immediate future.
Once in each half a superbly executed pass from Boyd put Oates in open pastures on the left wing but they will be separated by some 60 metres of Suncorp Stadium turf in Game One with Boyd almost certainly to be pushed back to the wing.
Boyd became an Origin try-scoring great on Queensland's left wing and if he is to head back there it will mean a shift for Oates to the right wing, if he doesn't get pushed out of the side altogether.
Oates set up the first try of the night for Tautau Moga with a searching run but it is his strong carries from deep inside his own half that make him such a valuable inclusion playing for Queensland.
Against the Wests Tigers he accumulated 199 metres and four tackle busts and as a Queensland incumbent should be one of five Broncos named for Game One on Monday.
Fragility of our heroes exposed again
We watch these athletes of steel and marvel at their strength but it is when they are at their weakest that as a game we become most vulnerable.
Days after we learned of the personal struggles facing Greg Inglis, seeing the frightened eyes of Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough as he was taken from the field on Friday night stripped away that sense of indestructibility that they wear so proudly.
Midway through the second half McCullough went in to make his 32nd tackle of the night when some late footwork by Wests Tigers back-rower Kyle Lovett saw his hip crash into McCullough's head with disastrous consequences.
The scenes as he convulsed on the field were confronting but the medical staff from both teams quickly went to his aid and ensured his safe passage from the field, again highlighting the courage required to take the field each and every week.
We like to believe that nothing can hurt them but even the bravest heroes have their weak points.