Broncos v Dragons: Fifita starting, Aitken out
It is 25 years since Wayne Bennett guided Brisbane to back-to-back grand final wins over St George and eight years since he took the St George Illawarra joint venture to their only premiership.
The history between the Red V and the Broncos is a rich one and the ties between the two clubs extend beyond King Wayne to Darius Boyd and Ben Hunt and the Sims brothers.
On current form you would say Brisbane are far more likely to score another premiership trophy than the Dragons in 2018, but the Red V did restore confidence with last Saturday's 24-14 win over the Knights.
The Broncos, meanwhile, jumped from eighth to sixth with Sunday's 48-16 win over Manly and their potency out wide is certain to trouble a Dragons defence which has leaked 26 points per game in the past six weeks.
The return of captain Gareth Widdop is a massive boost for the Dragons and they will be hoping the Englishman can relieve some of the stress on halfback Ben Hunt.
Match: Broncos vs Dragons
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
- Nine Network
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS
Key match-up: The forward battle will be immense as the big men look to lay a platform for the playmakers. Ben Hunt has been the man under the microscope at the Dragons and his showdown with Kodi Nikorima will be critical. Nikorima is growing in confidence every week whereas Hunt's confidence has been eaten away during the past six weeks.
For the Broncos to win: Get the ball to Corey Oates. The towering left winger crossed four times against Manly to equal the club record for tries in a match and take his season tally to 18. The Dragons' backline defence is vulnerable and Oates has the pace and power to make them pay if he gets into open spaces.
For the Dragons to win: Gareth Widdop needs to play with the flair and freedom which had Paul McGregor's men flying high only eight weeks ago. Widdop is the heartbeat of the side and if his running game and kicking are on song then the Dragons can fire a warning shot across the bow of the other finalists. If he is rusty and fails to gel with Hunt then it could be curtains.
Broncos Stat Attack: Rookie winger Jamayne Isaako has been a revelation in 2018, finishing as the competition's leading point-scorer (233) following his 20-point haul against Manly on Sunday afternoon at Suncorp Stadium. His teammate Anthony Milford comfortably chalked up the most kick metres (8462). Wayne Bennett's men are also competing their sets at 80 per cent.
Dragons Stat Attack: Despite some scratchy form heading into the finals, the Red V are still the yardstick when it comes to tackle breaks (880). Pivot Gareth Widdop has 16 try assists to his name, while hooker Cameron McInnes has made 1062 tackles.
And another thing: The rival squads opened the 2018 Telstra Premiership campaign, with the Dragons cruising to an impressive 34-12 victory at Kogarah in early March. Look for under-siege Red V halfback Ben Hunt to rise to the occasion against his former employers.
Brisbane Broncos v St George Illawarra Dragons, Sunday 4pm at Suncorp Stadium
Fullback for Broncos is number 1 Darius BoydFullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew Dufty
Winger for Broncos is number 2 Corey OatesWinger for Dragons is number 2 Nene Macdonald
Centre for Broncos is number 3 James RobertsCentre for Dragons is number 3 Zac Lomax
Centre for Broncos is number 4 Jordan KahuCentre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
Winger for Broncos is number 5 Jamayne IsaakoWinger for Dragons is number 5 Jordan Pereira
Five-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Anthony MilfordFive-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Gareth Widdop
Halfback for Broncos is number 7 Kodi NikorimaHalfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt
Prop for Broncos is number 15 Joe OfahengaueProp for Dragons is number 8 James Graham
Hooker for Broncos is number 9 Andrew McCulloughHooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnes
Prop for Broncos is number 10 Sam ThaidayProp for Dragons is number 10 Leeson Ah Mau
2nd Row for Broncos is number 17 David Fifita2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Tyson Frizell
2nd Row for Broncos is number 12 Tevita Pangai Junior2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
Lock for Broncos is number 13 Josh McGuireLock for Dragons is number 13 Jack de Belin
Interchange for Broncos is number 8 Matthew LodgeInterchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy Latimore
Interchange for Broncos is number 14 Patrick MagoInterchange for Dragons is number 15 Kurt Mann
Interchange for Broncos is number 16 Korbin SimsInterchange for Dragons is number 16 Blake Lawrie
Interchange for Broncos is number 18 Kotoni StaggsInterchange for Dragons is number 17 Luciano Leilua
Broncos: In a late change, Joe Ofahengaue will start at prop, with Matt Lodge dropping back to the bench. David Fifita will start in the second row after Alex Glenn (calf) was ruled out on Saturday. Andrew McCullough (concussion) returns at hooker, allowing Josh McGuire to revert to lock. Sam Tagataese and Gehamat Shibasaki were omitted an hour before kick-off.
Dragons: The Dragons will start the match 1-17, with Jason Nightingale and Hame Sele dropped from the squad an hour before the game time. Captain Gareth Widdop (elbow) returns at five-eighth, bumping Kurt Mann to the bench and Jai Field out of the squad, in the only listed change from last week. Lock Jack De Belin has been named despite sporting a moonboot on an injured ankle or foot on Tuesday.
Head-to-head in NRL era: Played 38; Broncos 23 wins, Dragons 15 wins
Previous result: Dragons won 34-12 in round 1 at Jubilee Oval
Points per game (regular season): Broncos 23.2 (3rd); Dragons 21.6 (7th)
Points conceded per game (regular season): Broncos 20.8 (10th); Dragons 19.7 (8th)
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League
Craig Wing's prediction: The Broncos are on a roll. They have a big forward pack, they know their job and are strong right across the park. The Dragons have too many demons to deal with. Broncos by 20.
Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series