Warriors v Broncos: Brisbane rocked by injuries
While they might not exactly rank as everybody's favourite second team, the Warriors have certainly emerged as a lovable underdog in 2018.
Much maligned coach Stephen Kearney deserves credit for striking a winning chemistry with a team that many footy followers picked to finish last. Cool-headed veteran Blake Green has been a revelation alongside halfback Shaun Johnson and the pair could cause all kinds of headaches for the Broncos with their clever kicking games.
Which Brisbane side will show up this week? Will it be the uninspired Broncos that were soundly beaten by the Dragons and Titans, or will it be the highly motivated Broncos that brushed aside the star-studded Cowboys in round two?
The key match-up: The battle of the flying finishers. Corey Oates on the left for Brisbane up against the NRL's leading try-scorer David Fusitu'a on the right for the Warriors.
For the Broncos to win: Their under-pressure halves must fire. Both Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima are electric ball carriers but one of them needs to shoulder more of a ball-playing responsibility.
For the Warriors to win: The players spoke about what a boost of energy it was to have 25,000 in the stands at Mt Smart in their win over the Cowboys on Saturday and the home crowd could again go a long way to getting the result this week.
Broncos Stat Attack: The Brisbane forwards need to step. In last week's loss, their top three metre-eaters were all backs in Oats, Anthony Milford and James Roberts.
Warriors Stat Attack: The Warriors have scored more than 20 points in all of their matches so far this year.
And another thing: If the Warriors are able to get past the Broncos, it will mark the first time since 2002 the club has won six in a row – that year they made the Grand Final.
Match: Warriors vs Broncos
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos, 1pm local (3pm AET) Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium
Warriors: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (c), 2 David Fusitu'a, 3 Peta Hiku, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Ken Maumalo, 6 Blake Green, 7 Shaun Johnson, 15 Sam Lisone, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Agnatius Paasi, 11 Leivaha Pulu, 12 Tohu Harris, 13 Adam Blair
Interchange: 8 Bunty Afoa 14 Jazz Tevaga, 16 Simon Mannering, 17 Anthony Gelling
The unbeaten Warriors have made a slight alteration to the team that beat the Cowboys, with Sam Lisone to start at prop in place of Bunty Afoa. Mason Lino and Sam Cook were omitted from the bench on Friday, while Chris Satae and Isaiah Papali'i were cut from the 19-man squad an hour before kick-off.
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 18 Tom Opacic, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 4 Jack Bird, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 14 Sam Thaiday 11 Alex Glenn, 16 Korbin Sims, 13 Josh McGuire
Interchange: 10 Tevita Pangai jnr, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 17 Jaydn Su'a, 20 Sam Tagataese
Broncos: Broncos and Queensland Maroons star Matt Gillett is facing several months on the sidelines with a fractured neck. Gillett has been replaced by Korbin Sims in the back-row, while Jack Bird has shifted from the centres to halfback to cover the loss of Kodi Nikorima (leg). Alex Glenn (shoulder) returns, Tom Opacic will start at centre, while Sam Tagataese has been named on the interchange bench. Sam Thaiday has been given the 11th-hour nod to start with Tevita Pangai jnr moved to the bench.
Head-to-head: Played 39; Broncos 22 wins, Warriors 17 wins
Matches at venue: Played 20; Warriors 12 wins, Broncos 8 wins
2017 result: Warriors won 28-10 at Mt Smart Stadium in round 12
Points per game: Warriors 24.8 (3rd); Broncos 13.8 (13th)
Points conceded per game: Warriors 13 (3rd); Broncos 20.4 (10th)
Televised: Live on Fox League