Roosters v Broncos: Schick Preview
Schick Hydro Preview: Sydney Roosters v Brisbane Broncos
A spot in the NRL's top four is on the line when the Brisbane Broncos travel to Allianz Stadium to take on the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.
It is a hard game to judge on paper, with so many players from both sides taking part in Wednesday night's State of Origin series opener.
The Roosters have five stars that took part in that clash, while the Broncos have six of their own, with all of Brisbane's contingent running out for the Queensland Maroons.
Neither side will want to lose touch with the Melbourne Storm who sit four points clear of both sides at the top of the NRL table.
It is why the Tricolours' Origin stars are all set to back-up, with Kane Evans and Ryan Matterson shifting back to the bench. Lindsay Collins, Connor Watson, Chris Smith, Mitchell Cornish and Zane Tetevano are all out of the 17.
Brisbane are back to full strength with all six of their Queensland stars planning to back-up. This means Darius Boyd, Corey Oates, Anthony Milford, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire are all back in the side. However, the Broncos have named six reserves if any player should fail to recover from Origin I. Andrew McCullough will also return after missing last round with concussion.
Why the Roosters can win: The Roosters have an impeccable record against the Broncos in Sydney of late and they have drawn Brisbane at the perfect time as they struggle to balance Origin and club football. The Broncos have lost four of their last five against the Roosters in Sydney, losing by an average of just under two converted tries. The Roosters can continue this by playing fast-paced football, utilising the likes of in-form half Mitchell Pearce and star fullback Michael Gordon to tear Brisbane up through the middle. The Bondi boys are second in line breaks this season with 54, averaging almost five per game and this is largely because of those two players. If they can hit this number on Saturday night then they will be hard to stop.
Why the Broncos can win: The return of six stars from Queensland Maroons duties is a huge plus, but perhaps the biggest positive is the return of hooker Andrew McCullough. McCullough missed Brisbane's 28-10 loss to the New Zealand Warriors in Round 12 due to concussion and it showed in the Broncos' defence, with Wayne Bennett's men being opened up time and time again through the middle of the park. McCullough averages almost 52 tackles per game and would be in Origin contention if not for Cameron Smith. His inclusion is huge for the Broncos and he might just be the difference if he can slow down the Roosters in the middle of the ruck.
 Telstra Premiership: Michael Gordon vs Darius Boyd
Tries, Line Break Assists, Line Breaks, Try Assists.
The history: Played 44; Roosters 17; Broncos 27. The Broncos haven't beaten the Roosters at Allianz Stadium since 2012, but their recent form against the Tricolours at other venues has been much better. Brisbane have won three of their last four against the Roosters, cruising to a 32-8 victory in their Round 6 clash earlier this year. Blake Ferguson has four tries in four games against the Broncos.
What are the odds: Easily the most even betting game of the round according to Sportsbet. 53 per cent of the money is with Brisbane in the head-to-head market, while both sides have been popular to win 1-12 rather than 13+. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins. Assistant Referee: Dave Munro. Touch Judges: Michael Wise & Phil Henderson. Review Official: Ben Galea. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.
Televised: Fox League – Live coverage from 5:30PM.
How we see it: Even with both teams affected by Origin, this match still looms as the game of the round. It is a tough one to pick, with both teams desperate to consolidate their spot in the top four. Brisbane's record in Sydney is a worry, but their victory against the Roosters earlier in the year was comprehensive and it is a blueprint they are likely to follow again this time around. Seven key inclusions have us leaning towards a close Brisbane victory. Broncos by 4.