Brisbane Broncos vs Parramatta Eels preview
As the 2012 NRL season winds down, injuries are starting to take a toll on all 16 teams. Tonight, Monday night football sees two of the worst affected sides take on each other.
In what could be billed as the Battle of the Backline Curse, the Broncos will be without first choice backs Justin Hodges, Jack Reed, Dale Copley, Jharal Yow Yeh and Josh Hoffman (suspension), while the Eels will make the trip up to Queensland without superstar Jarryd Hayne, Willie Tonga, new-signing Luke Kelly, Casey McGuire and Matthew Keating.
Without all these stars, the point-scoring onus will be even greater on each team’s out-of-form halves: Peter Wallace and Corey Norman for the Broncos and Chris Sandow and Ben Roberts for the Eels.
And of course we can’t forget the two retirement roadshows of Peter Civoniceva and Nathan Hindmarsh, two 300-game players and gentlemen of the game.
Will we see a highlights montage of the two before the game on Fox Sports? There’d be good money to be made on that prediction.
Parramatta seems to be in a better position injury-wise than the Broncos, with the home side fielding a rookie back three and makeshift centres. Luke Capewell will get his run-on debut at fullback and will look to prove his class following a season spent in the Queensland Cup, while giant winger Aaron Whitchurch makes only his second start.
For the Eels, second gamer Juke Mullany will start at fullback but Luke Burt will expect to see time in the number one position when coming in off his wing.
The Eels will be confident their three-quarter line can hold their shape defensively, with all four players having played the majority of this season’s games.
Smart decisions will need to be made in defence against the Broncos backline decoy runners, and the Eels have showed in recent weeks that they can handle this task. Point scoring, on the other hand, will be a struggle.
Without the brilliance of Jarryd Hayne there does not seem to be many points in this Eels side, unless Sandow and Roberts can produce some tricks out of their inconsistent bags.
The Broncos disjointed backline will have to be on their game to reduce the amount of defensive errors they have produced in recent weeks. While both good players, Glenn and Beale are better suited to other positions than in the centres, meaning their communication with their respective rookie wingers will have to be clear to ensure gaps don’t appear when the Eels spread the ball wide.
As always, the match will be won in the forwards, as the dominant pack will be able to provide better ball for the halves. Norman and Wallace have been down on form in the Broncos run of losses, lacking the cohesion they had in the earlier parts of the season.
They’ve been guilty of pushing the ball wide too early in the search for quick points, lacking the patience of previous years with Darren Lockyer at the helm.
The Broncos strength should be through their forwards, and if Wallace and Norman can win the battle through the middle third with their hardened forward pack, there should be some easy points for the outside backs at the end of both halves.
Chris Sandow has showed glimpses of his brilliant best in recent weeks and is playing with a grin on his face again, a sign that he’s confident and enjoying his footy. It’s a world apart from the player that spent time in the NSW Cup a few months ago, and he will be the go-to man for the Eels.
Like his halves partner, Ben Roberts has also spent time in the lower grades this season, and has been recalled to the starting side after the injury to Luke Kelly. He is an enigmatic player, and Eels fans will be hoping he can follow the team’s renewed confidence and produce a quality game.
Roberts is a match-winner, and has proved that against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in previous years with the Bulldogs, where he often made a mockery of Lockyer in defence with his footwork.
However, he is inconsistent and we will see whether he puts in a rocks or diamonds performance.
How the Eels perform in their first week with caretaker coach Brad Arthur at the helm will be an important sidenote to the game. Their heroic performance in downing the Storm last week was no doubt helped by the knowledge that it was Stephen Kearney’s final game in charge, and the emotional hangover from that occasion may affect the Eels.
On the other hand, with the midweek announcement of Ricky Stuart as their 2013 coach, the players will be excited and keen to prove they deserve a contract for the new season.
Will we see Sticky at the game? Here’s hoping he likes what he sees.
Broncos by 6
Home ground advantage always helps the Broncos and this game should be no different. With finals around the corner, the Broncos will be keen to start their march towards the top four, and with Melbourne woefully down on form there is a minor premiership for the taking.
A win against a team battling for the wooden spoon should be regulation, but this game shapes as a must win due to the logjam at the top of this season’s NRL Ladder.
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