Expectations were high for both clubs heading into 2022 after some excellent recruiting which saw Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell head to Brisbane and Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr and Tevita Pangai jnr arrive at Belmore.
To say the Broncos and Bulldogs have been disappointing in the opening six rounds would surely be an understatement as they find themselves in 14th and 16th respectively with a paltry three wins between them.
One of those successes for Brisbane was against the Bulldogs in round two at Accor Stadium and five weeks later they square off again in a must-win clash.
With a passionate Suncorp Stadium crowd behind them the Broncos go in as warm favourites but coach Kevin Walters will be taking nothing for granted even with the Dogs ravaged by COVID and forced to make several changes.
Sportsbet Betting preview: Broncos v Bulldogs
Broncos: A late switch an hour before kick-off with Billy Walters moving from the bench to start at hooker and Cory Paix going to the interchange.
The injury to fullback Tesi Niu has opened the door for Te Maire Martin to play his first NRL game since April 2019. The 26-year-old retired in 2020 due to a bleed on the brain but has fought his way back and will make an emotional return this weekend. Herbie Farnworth (leg) is back in the centres and Tyson Gamble is the new five-eighth.
Payne Haas returns from his one-game ban at prop so Keenan Palasia moves to the bench. Jake Turpin is out with a shoulder injury. Thomas Flegler gets a spot on the bench on his return from suspension and Ryan James drops out.
Jordan Pereira, Brenko Lee and Ezra Mam were among those to drop out when the squad was trimmed to 19 players 24 hours before kick-off. Delouise Hoeter is 18th man.
Bulldogs: What was originally just two changes with Braidon Burns (hamstring) and Chris Patolo (head knock) sidelined has been increased significantly after several players succumbed to COVID protocols on Wednesday.
Brent Naden, Jake Averillo and Ava Seumanufagai all dropped out of the team initially named on Tuesday, replaced by youngsters Jacob Kiraz and Billy Tsikrikas, while Jayden Okunbor returns to the wing.
No further changes on game day. Jackson Topine is 18th man.
The Bulldogs did not announce any more late withdrawals after the squad was trimmed to 19 players on Thursday night, with Joshua Cook and Jackson Topine listed as reserves.
Match: Broncos v Bulldogs
Round 7 -
Fullback for Broncos is number 1 Te Maire MartinFullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Matthew Dufty
Winger for Broncos is number 2 Corey OatesWinger for Bulldogs is number 2 Jayden Okunbor
Centre for Broncos is number 3 Kotoni StaggsCentre for Bulldogs is number 3 Aaron Schoupp
Centre for Broncos is number 4 Herbie FarnworthCentre for Bulldogs is number 4 Jacob Kiraz
Winger for Broncos is number 5 Selwyn CobboWinger for Bulldogs is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Five-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Tyson GambleFive-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Matt Burton
Halfback for Broncos is number 7 Adam ReynoldsHalfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Kyle Flanagan
Prop for Broncos is number 8 Corey JensenProp for Bulldogs is number 8 Luke Thompson
Hooker for Broncos is number 14 Billy WaltersHooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Prop for Broncos is number 10 Payne HaasProp for Bulldogs is number 10 Paul Vaughan
2nd Row for Broncos is number 11 Kurt Capewell2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Corey Waddell
2nd Row for Broncos is number 12 Jordan Riki2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Tevita Pangai Junior
Lock for Broncos is number 13 Kobe HetheringtonLock for Bulldogs is number 13 Josh Jackson
Interchange for Broncos is number 9 Cory PaixInterchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Bailey Biondi-Odo
Interchange for Broncos is number 15 Rhys KennedyInterchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Joe Stimson
Interchange for Broncos is number 16 Thomas FleglerInterchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Max King
Interchange for Broncos is number 17 Keenan PalasiaInterchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Billy Tsikrikas
Replacement for Broncos is number 18 Delouise HoeterReplacement for Bulldogs is number 20 Jackson Topine
- Referee: Peter Gough
- Touch Judge: Darian Furner
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins
Thomas Flegler v Luke Thompson: Flegler made 107 metres and 40 tackles in his lone game this season to underline his value to the Broncos but yet again his lack of discipline let him down and he has spent the past fortnight on the sideline. Thompson has played every game and is averaging a tick over 100 metres per match but the Bulldogs' 1-5 record won't sit well with the combative Englishman. Expect these old school enforcers to be coming off the back fence as they search for ascendancy in the middle and expect the man who best controls his aggression to be having the last laugh on Friday.
Broncos No.7 Adam Reynolds (2688) sits second behind Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans (2823) for most kicking metres, despite playing one less game than the Sea Eagles skipper and every other player in the top 10 in this category. Matt Burton's booming kicks have yielded 2396 metres for the Bulldogs, the fourth highest tally in the NRL in 2022.
Match: Broncos v Bulldogs
Round 7 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane