Broncos confident against Storm
Despite the absence of both Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford, stand-in Brisbane Broncos captain Adam Blair believes his side are in a stronger position to knock off the Melbourne Storm than they were when the two sides met 12 months ago.
That match ended 48-6 in Melbourne's favour, with the Storm delivering the Broncos their worst ever loss at Suncorp Stadium.
That Brisbane side was missing Jordan Kahu, Jack Reed, Greg Eden and Tom Opacic before a ball was even kicked, while winger Corey Oates left the field in the 18th minute due to concussion.
Oates's injury forced coach Wayne Bennett to move the 174cm Kodi Nikorima to the Broncos' wing, but there was one large problem, his direct opponent was 18cm taller than him.
Melbourne winger Suliasi Vunivalu took full advantage of this with the help of halfback Cooper Cronk as the two took the match away from Brisbane.
Cronk put a number of pinpoint cross-field kicks above Nikorima's head, with Vunivalu soaring above Nikorima time and time again to score three tries, while Cronk himself notched up five try assists.
It was the definition of using a side's weakness to one's advantage and something that could not have been achieved without the accuracy of Cronk's kicking game.
But all things going to plan, the Storm should not be afforded the same benefit on Friday night, with Oates intent on staying on the paddock for the full 80 minutes this time around.
It is not just Oates's health that has Blair confident of a Broncos victory, with the 31-year-old saying his side are in a better headspace and physical condition than this time last year.
"We lost a lot of players that night. Kodi ended up out on the wing so it was a tough one," Blair said.
"We are in a really good place at the moment player wise. Mentally we are very good and majority of us are doing well physically.
"We'll go into this game with a good preparation. Energy and a great attitude is key to it so hopefully those things can help us come away with the win."
Recently named captain of his home country New Zealand, Blair is using his time as captain of the Broncos to hone his leadership skills heading into the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
He received the opportunity to take charge of Brisbane due to a thumb injury to regular captain and fullback Boyd who is not due back until Round 20 at the very earliest.
With Boyd's return still weeks away, Blair is enjoying the opportunity and focused on guiding his side to their first win over the Storm at Suncorp Stadium since 2009.
"I still feel like I'm filling in. I guess it is a role I have to start getting used to anyway," he said.
"I enjoy being a leader, whether that is on the field with my actions or with my talk.
"I'm a passionate player but at times you have to be calm and collected as a captain.
"Those are the things I want to be better at so this period while Darius is away is a good opportunity for me to practice those things."