NRL Round 17: Broncos v Sharks preview
Another week, another third versus fourth game at Suncorp Stadium. After seeing off the Rabbitohs last week, the Broncos will be looking to keep up their good form with another win in a battle of the non-Origin stars.
The Broncos are missing six players, and the Sharks missing their two superstars, Paul Gallen and Todd Carney.
Working in the Broncos favour is that their backline of the previous few weeks is largely intact, with only Justin Hodges getting the Origin call-up.
This keeps the Broncos spine of Josh Hoffmann, Corey Norman, Peter Wallace and Andrew McCullough together. If the forwards can match their Sharks counterparts, these four players should be able to conjure up some tries for the outside backs.
While the Sharks spine has been playing well this season, much of their points-scoring has relied upon Todd Carney, whether he is creating, scoring or drawing defensive numbers as a decoy. This has relieved much of the pressure on Jeff Robson and Isaac De Gois, who have shone in the Sharks march up the ladder.
Without Carney, Shane Flanagan has had to recall Wade Graham to the starting line-up as a ball-playing lock.
Central to the forward battle will be the performance of in-form Broncos prop Josh McGuire. A Man-of-the-Match performance last week, playing 68 minutes, shows what McGuire is capable of and he needs to replicate that form if the Broncos are to challenge the tough Sharks pack.
Opposing McGuire will be Bryce Gibbs, Ben Ross and Andrew Fifita, all quality front-rowers who have been central to the Sharks resurgence this season.
If McGuire can dominate them, it will make the job much easier for rookie props Jarrod Wallace and Mitchell Dodds, who didn’t manage to get off the bench last week.
The other defining factor in this game could be the weather.
It’s been raining for days in Brisbane and showers are forecast for Friday. If the game turns into a dour slugfest, the Broncos will miss their hardened forwards who are on Origin duty. This could play into the hands of the likes of Jeremy Smith and Ben Ross, in a game where tight metres up the middle and solid goal-line defence is vital.