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Broncos v Raiders: Teenager Fifita on Broncos bench

The importance of this game can't be emphasised enough for the ninth-placed Raiders. After keeping their finals hopes alive with a round 15 thrashing of the Tigers, they will be all but out of the running if they lose this one.

Canberra (6-8) showed against the Tigers what they are capable of with inspirational hooker Josh Hodgson in the line-up and the pressure is on to prove they can do it against a top-eight side. Ricky Stuart has some rep players to check after last weekend's Origin and international Tests and will be hoping he can go to war with his strongest team.

The eighth-placed Broncos (8-6) caused a minor boilover with their round 15 road win over Cronulla and can give themselves valuable breathing space on the NRL ladder if they win on Saturday. And like every coach at this time of year, Wayne Bennett has a plethora of rep players to monitor before settling on a 17-man side to face the Raiders.

They haven't been overly impressive all season but if the Broncos go on to secure a top-eight finish, everyone knows that any Bennett-coached side has to be respected in September.

Broncos v Raiders - Round 16

Key match-up: He might come off the bench, but Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson looms as the X-factor for a team that needs to string some wins together to break into the top eight. Hodgson pretty much stole the show in his comeback game against the Tigers and Ricky Stuart might be tempted to use him off the bench again on Saturday. Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough will be keen to meet the challenge and show Hodgson why he is an Origin player.

For the Broncos to win: Darius Boyd's exit from the Origin arena was never going to draw as much attention as that of Cameron Smith's departure, but the Broncos probably weren't unhappy to know Boyd's focus would be entirely on club footy through the Origin period. In many ways Boyd is as important to the Broncos as Smith is to Melbourne and he will looking to have a big influence on Saturday night's clash.

For the Raiders to win: The big win over the Tigers was a timely confidence boost and they need to replicate the urgency and chemistry from that performance against the Broncos. Hodgson's knack for keeping the defence in two minds is huge part of Canberra's game and coach Stuart will give him the green light to call the shots from dummy-half.

And another thing: He couldn't quite break into the NSW team but it's going to be hard to keep Nick Cotric out next year. Impressive as Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr have been in the 2018 Origin series, Canberra's 19-year-old winger has been touted as a future international and it's easy to see why. Cotric leads the NRL in line breaks (14) and is second in tackle breaks (91) behind Kalyn Ponga (116).

Brisbane Broncos v Canberra Raiders, Saturday 7.35pm 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, 17 Alex Glenn, 12 Jaydn Su'A, 13 Josh McGuire

Interchange: 14 Patrick Mago, 16 Tom Opacic 18 Korbin Sims, 21 David Fifita

Tevita Pangai jnr (ribs) is out, with Alex Glenn moving into the starting side. Troy Dargan and Gehamat Shibasaki join Pangai jnr as the players left out 24 hours out from kick-off. The Broncos have made just one other change from their last-start win over the Sharks, with Tom Opacic coming in. Reserves Sam Tagataese, Kotoni Staggs and Joe Ofahengaue were omitted an hour prior to kick-off.

Raiders: 21 Brad Abbey, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Michael Oldfield, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 16 Dunamis Lui, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Joseph Tapine, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Josh Papalii

Interchange: 8 Iosia Soliola, 14 Siliva Havili, 15 Junior Paulo, 17 Liam Knight

Jack Wighton has been stood down by the Raiders after his most recent court appearance on Thursday. Brad Abbey will take his place at fullback. Along with Wighton, prop Charlie Gubb was the other man left out 24 hours out from game time. Josh Hodgson starts at hooker after his successful injury comeback against the Tigers, pushing Siliva Havili to the bench. Sia Soliola starts at prop with Dunamis Lui on the bench. Junior Paulo (foot) has been named to return on the bench for Luke Bateman (knee, round 20). Jack Murchie and Craig Garvey were cut an hour before kick-off.


Head-to-head: Played 49; Broncos 29 wins, Raiders 19 wins, 1 draw
Matches at venue: Played 16; Broncos 12 wins, Raiders 4 wins
Previous result: Broncos won 30-20 at GIO Stadium in round 16, 2017
Points per game: Broncos 19.1; Raiders 23.7
Points conceded per game: Broncos 22.3; Raiders 21.1
Televised: Live on Fox League

Steve Turner's prediction: The Broncos sit in eighth position and are four points clear of the Raiders. It's a huge game for Brisbane to keep themselves in the eight and after a tough win against the Sharks in Round 15, the Broncos will have a point to prove. The Raiders were superb against the Wests Tigers thanks to the returning Josh Hodgson. Hodgson has brilliant in his first game back from a knee injury. His composure and game management helped the Raiders halves and ultimately changed the way Canberra played. The number nine is key to the surge towards the finals. Tip: Raiders by 6

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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