Wests Tigers v Broncos: Elijah out, Bird in centres
Wests Tigers v Brisbane Broncos, Friday 8.05pm AEDT at Campbelltown Stadium
The Tigers are defying expectation early on, with brave victories against competition heavyweights the Roosters and Storm shocking plenty.
Pressure follows the Broncos every season, and following a poor display in their season opener versus the Dragons, they returned to form to defeat the Cowboys last start.
Wayne Bennett will expect a win in Sydney's west, but how can you write-off the home side?
The selections: Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has kept faith with the players who secured two remarkable points in Melbourne last Saturday night. Lock Elijah Taylor is out with a hamstring injury, with Matthew Eisenhuth starting at lock. Utility Michael Chee Kam has an opportunity to shine off the bench.
For the Broncos, Jack Bird has been passed fit and will make his Broncos debut in the centres after Jordan Kahu's broken jaw. Jaydn Su'A drops off the bench to 18th man, with Tom Opacic moving back onto the bench.
The key match-up: Benji Marshall v Anthony Milford. Marshall, a fan favourite at the Tigers even before returning to the club for a second stint, has shown in the first couple of rounds he can still manage a game better than most. Milford was brilliant versus the Cowboys and will be keen to replicate that kind of performance across 80 minutes.
For the Tigers to win: They need to score more points. It is highly unlikely 10 points will be enough to topple the men from Red Hill. Their defence has been impressive, but bulk points are essential.
For the Broncos to win: Enthusiasm from the opening minute. On paper it is a game they should win comfortably, but if they start in a lethargic fashion the Tigers could be singing their team song for the third week running.
Tigers Stat Attack: Discipline. After conceding a jaw-dropping 18 penalties last weekend, Cleary's men need to rectify this area of their game. If they don't, it could be a long night at Campbelltown.
Broncos Stat Attack: 708 tackles in the first two rounds tells the story. Brisbane's engine room no doubt will be hoping to spend more time with the ball in hand this week.
And another thing: Watch for Marshall to show the Broncos what they are missing. The veteran was largely used off the interchange bench by Bennett last year, and his electric early season form suggests he is primed for another man of the match performance.
Prediction: Broncos by 8
Wests Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Benji Marshall (c), 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 14 Matt McIlwrick, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange: 9 Pita Godinet, 15 Alex Twal, 16 Michael Chee Kam, 17 Josh Aloiai
In a late change, Matt McIlwrick will start at hooker, with Pita Godinet dropping back to the bench. Tyson Gamble and Tim Grant were the last two men dropped off the interchange bench. Elijah Taylor (hamstring) is out with Matt Eisenhuth starting at lock and Michael Chee Kam on the bench. The side is otherwise unchanged meaning fullback Corey Thompson and David Nofoaluma hold their spots with Tuimoala Lolohea not yet back. Sauaso Sue and Taane Milne were dropped off the reserves bench 24 hours out from kick-off.
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 19 Jack Bird, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Tevita Pangai Jnr, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Josh McGuire
Interchange: 4 Tom Opacic, 14 Sam Thaiday, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims.
Jack Bird will play his first game with the Broncos at centre in his return from off-season shoulder surgery. Tom Opacic has dropped back to the interchange bench. Todd Murphy and Jayden S'Ua were the last two men to drop off the interchange bench.
Head-to-head: 26 games, Broncos 20 wins, Wests Tigers 5 wins, 1 draw
Matches at venue: 7 games; Broncos 6 wins, 1 draw
Last five head-to-head: Broncos 4 wins; Wests Tigers 1 wins
2017 result: Broncos win 36-0 at Suncorp Stadium
Points per game: Wests Tigers 10; Broncos 18
Points conceded per game: Wests Tigers 8; Broncos 27
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League