Broncos v Eels: Kahu returns; major switch for Eels spine
Last week the Broncos showed their famous fighting spirit against the Roosters, coming from behind in crunch time to claim a thrilling win in a high intensity clash that certainly got the blood pumping for the upcoming Origin series.
But here comes the tricky bit – backing it up with an equally enthusiastic and committed effort against a team they're expected to brush aside. The Broncos need to prove they've finally overcome their inconsistency issues before they can be viewed as a serious contender.
Parramatta's finals prospects become bleaker by the week, with a round 11 home loss to the Warriors leaving them languishing at the bottom of the ladder with two wins.
In the silver lining department, the Eels know like everybody else the Broncos run hot and cold from one week to the next. But the bottom line is that coach Brad Arthur has his hands full trying to keep his team believing they still have time to turn their season around.
Key match-up: They are natural athletes and the game seems to come easy to them, but Anthony Milford and Corey Norman leave fans scratching their heads at times with their propensity to fade in and out of games. The Broncos need Milford to stay focused for 80 minutes on a regular basis, while Norman – chosen to play fullback this week rather his usual five-eighth role – has to rediscover the zest that punctuated his dynamic displays last season when Parra finished in the top four.
Match: Broncos vs Eels
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
For the Broncos to win: Given the Eels' struggles, the Broncos should take care of business on Thursday. They are coming off a thrilling comeback win over the Roosters and can't get caught in the trap of under-estimating their opponents. The Broncos should endeavour to give James Roberts and Jamayne Isaako plenty of touches after their breathtaking try-scoring efforts in crunch time last week.
For the Eels to win: For whatever reason Mitch Moses and Corey Norman have been unable to find the same sweet chemistry they struck up in 2017. While it's probably true that Parra's losing issues are as much mental as they are physical for the entire team, coach Brad Arthur would love to see the Moses-Norman connection providing better direction and more scoring opportunities. Which is why he has probably lost patience and swapped Norman for fullback Clint Gutherson.
Broncos stat attack: He has never enjoyed a warm and fuzzy relationship with those who run the game, but Wayne Bennett will coach his 800th match on Thursday.
Eels stat attack: Prop Suaia Matagi will chalk up his 100th NRL game when he comes off the bench against the Broncos.
And another thing: Being all but out of finals contention before the season's halfway point no doubt has Parra and their fans kicking cans. Of course the Eels are still a mathematical chance of finishing in the top eight, but this team might've peaked during last year's impressive run and will almost certainly need an off-season roster shake-up if things don't change over the second half of the Telstra Premiership.
Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels, Thursday 7.50pm at Suncorp Stadium
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Sam Thaiday, 11 Tevita Pangai jnr, 12 Jaydn Su'A, 13 Joe Ofahengaue
Interchange: 14 Sam Tagataese, 15 George Fai, 16 Kotoni Staggs, 17 Patrick Mago
Centre Jordan Kahu makes his return from a broken jaw at centre in place of Tom Opacic, who drops to the reserves with last week's impressive debutant Kotoni Staggs retaining his bench spot. George Fai replaces Korbin Sims (broken jaw) on the bench. Tom Opacic and David Fifita were the last two men to drop off the bench after Troy Dargan and Josh McGuire were the two players dropped from the reserves list 24 hours out from kick-off.
Eels: 1 Corey Norman, 2 Bevan French, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Brad Takairangi, 5 George Jennings, 6 Clint Gutherson (c), 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Daniel Alvaro, 9 Cameron King, 10 Siosaia Vave, 11 Manu Ma'u, 12 Tepai Moeroa, 13 Peni Terepo
Interchange: 14 Will Smith, 15 Suaia Matagi, 16 David Gower, 17 Marata Niukore
Brad Arthur has finally lost patience with his underperforming team and swapped fullback Clint Gutherson with five-eighth Corey Norman. Beau Scott's season-ending ACL injury forces a reshuffle with Manu Ma'u moving back to second row, Peni Terepo to lock and Siosaia Vave recalled at prop. Kane Evans and Josh Hoffman were dropped from the squad an hour out from kick-off after Raymond Stone and Jaeman Salmon were omitted from the squad 24 hours before kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 53; Broncos 31 wins, Eels 21 wins, 1 draw
Matches at venue: Played 18; Broncos 11 wins, Eels 7 wins
2017 results: Eels won 28-14 at ANZ Stadium in round 21; Eels won 52-34 at Suncorp Stadium in round 25
Points per game: Broncos 19.5; Eels 14.5
Points conceded per game: Broncos 23.1; Eels 22.7
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Steve Turner's prediction: Parramatta have been a real disappointment this year and I am struggling to find a case to push their chances against the Broncos. They're down on confidence, their football hasn't been great and they have now lost Beau Scott for the season due to injury. Meanwhile, Brisbane were great last weekend. They have one of the most impressive back rows in the competition, and with the strike out wide with the likes of James Roberts and Anthony Milford, they'll be too good for the Eels.
Tip: Brisbane by 10