Schick Hydro Preview Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers
It does not get much bigger than finals football at Suncorp Stadium and with so much on the line it is sure to be a blockbuster in Brisbane on Friday night.
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin returns to the venue he once called home and his Panthers side are sure to lift against the club that sacked him in 2014 to make way for Wayne Bennett.
Bennett has traditionally struggled against his coaching rival, winning just 18.2 per cent of meetings with the former Broncos mentor. The two have coached against each other in one final, with Griffin coming out victorious way back in 2011.
That was a long time ago and although Bennett insists his record against Griffin means nothing, deep down he will want to end the season of both Penrith and their coach.
His chance of doing that may hinge on the health of injured skipper Darius Boyd who is fighting the clock to be fit for Friday night. He is on Brisbane's extended bench, working overtime on his injured hamstring to make a well-timed return.
Enforcer Tevita Pangai Junior is also a chance of returning for the Broncos, named in the No.21 jersey as he too battles to beat a hamstring injury.
The Panthers have no injury concerns, naming an unchanged line-up to the one that defeated the Manly Sea Eagles in last week's elimination final.
Why the Broncos can win: Brisbane's right-side attack has been potent this season, scoring 44 tries in the right corner of the field. That equates to 41 per cent of the team's total tries for the year, with the likes of Jordan Kahu, James Roberts and Matt Gillett all having stellar seasons on the Broncos' right. Friday night presents another promising scenario for that trio with Penrith's left-side defence their weakest across the park. The Panthers have conceded 27 tries in the left corner, by far the most of any area of the field. It does not get any easier on Friday night for Penrith, with speedy Broncos centre Roberts having his best season to date. His 17 tries for the year puts him in elite company and he is sure to trouble the Panthers like he did in Round 9 when he ran for 180 metres, broke six tackles and scored a try.
Why the Panthers can win: Penrith are the undisputed champions when it comes to finishing fast. The Panthers have scored a massive 21 tries between the 70th and 80th minutes of games during the course of the season, with the Melbourne Storm's 15 the next best in the league. This never-say-die attitude has helped Penrith score 33 tries over the last 20 minutes of their 25 games this year, and the Broncos experienced that first hand during their meeting earlier in the season. On that night the Panthers trailed by 28 points before scoring three tries in the last 15 minutes of play to send a scare through Brisbane's camp. If Penrith can be in touch with the Broncos heading into the last quarter of the game this time around then they are a serious chance of coming home with a wet sail and stealing an upset win.
 Telstra Premiership: James Roberts vs Tyrone Peachey
Tries, Tackle Breaks, Line Breaks, All Run Metres.
The history: Played; Broncos 31; Panthers 19; Drawn 1. Penrith have had the wood over Brisbane recently, winning four of the past six meetings between the two sides. However, it is the Broncos who have been dominant at Suncorp Stadium, winning four of their past five games against the Panthers at the venue. As touched on above the two teams met at Lang Park earlier in the year, with Brisbane running out 32-18 winners after jumping out to a 28-0 lead. These clubs have met twice in finals – most recently in 2003 – with Penrith being victorious on both occasions.
What are the odds: Sportsbet has taken more individual bets on Penrith, but two-and-a-half times as many dollars on Brisbane, so the bigger bets are all with the Broncos. Brisbane by 1-12 is the most popular winning margin while Corey Oates is the best backed for first try scorer. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton; Assistant Referee: Adam Gee; Touch Judges: Nick Beashel & Chris Sutton; Review Official: Luke Patten; Senior RO: Jared Maxwell.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.30pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 6.55pm.
How we see it: This game will be an attacking contest not to be missed. A packed house at Suncorp Stadium is awaiting Penrith and they will throw everything at the Broncos, but Brisbane's attacking potency should get them over the line – particularly if they can get out to an early lead and put the pressure on the men from the foot of the mountain. Broncos by seven.