The Brisbane Broncos return to the Thursday night stage when they head south to ANZ Stadium and meet the South Sydney Rabbitohs to kick off round eight action in the NRL.
Usually, for these match previews I try to find something, anything, that can help to buy into the contest, to understand what’s at stake, to take a look at the history and maybe any bad blood between the sides.
For the life of me though, I can’t find the hook for this one. Wait, hang on a second – apparently these teams swapped coaches in October last year? Why didn’t someone say something?
Bad jokes aside, this game has been unavoidable for weeks if not months as the press blow it up into a ‘grudge match’. It’s the first meeting of the job swappers, former Rabbitoh coach Anthony Seibold and legendary Broncos mentor Wayne Bennett.
Brisbane have won the last seven against the Bunnies and accordingly have a seven-three lead in the last ten games between these clubs.
So yes, you know what that means – Anthony Seibold is 0-2 against Wayne Bennett after Bennett’s former team did the 2018 double over Seibold’s former team. Can we move on now?
It’s important to push past the overwhelming hype and hysteria whipped up for the Bennett vs Seibold mega super jumbo grudge clash battle and be realistic about what we’re facing with this game.
Brisbane sits tenth with two wins from seven matches. Souths are third with six wins. Souths run onto the field with the NRL’s third-stingiest defence (115 points conceded) and second most potent attack (164 points scored).
The teams are one and two for ineffective tackles and neither give away a stack of penalties, but no one does this year, do they?
Both teams won last week – Brisbane’s came against a weakened Cronulla outfit who on top of a swathe of missing players, lost Josh Dugan in the warmup and then Shaun Johnson early in the game. Souths won a titanic battle in Penrith against a desperate Panthers who are fighting for their season and carry undoubted quality in the lineup.
Souths named an unchanged side and why not? The forwards are rumbling, Damien Cook is still a handful for anyone and they keep the errors low with 36, third fewest in the league.
The Bunnies have no problem taking on defences through Cook, Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds and there’s willing support from Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham (six tries) and Sam Burgess (four tries). Burgess is a little dinged up after a head knock against Penrith, but he’s expected to be right to play.
The battle of the forward packs will be fun to watch. Broncos Payne Haas and Matthew Lodge will be busy trying to contain George and Tom Burgess and Tevita Pangai Junior and Alex Glenn can’t afford to relax for a second against Murray, Sam Burgess and John Sutton.
Brisbane also have some depth in the forwards with David Fifita and Joe Ofahengaue coming off the bench.
Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima was ruled out during the week with a ‘calf injury.’ I assume in this case ‘calf’ means ‘catching a long flight.’
With Nikorima ‘injured’, the Broncos are handing the number seven jersey to 18-year-old first-gamer Tom Dearden. Brisbane’s halves combination has been under pressure all season and it’ll be interesting to see if Anthony Milford is still empowered to take on the defensive line in his role.
Winger Corey Oates shares the lead for tries scored with Souths’ Cody Walker, they’ve both crossed seven times.
It’s also Darius Boyd’s 300th game and for all his tryless travails in 2019, you’d have to have blackness in your heart to deny that his career has been anything but sensational. Boyd’s been a star at the highest levels of the game for a long, long time and in the grinder of rugby league, bringing up a triple century of first-grade games is an incredible achievement.
I hope I’m wrong, but this is unlikely to be a barn burner full of angst and spite in front of thousands of rabid fans. ANZ stadium won’t be packed with Rabbitohs fans baying for blood and the Broncos just aren’t in good enough form to make a strong case for the win.
Even though Bennett’s team have been a little unconvincing in their wins, their defence and application is making sure they still get the work done. Brisbane can’t say the same.
Souths by 8.
Rabbitohs: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Corey Allen 3. Kyle Turner 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. George Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Tevita Tatola 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Ethan Lowe 17. Liam Knight. Reserves: 20. Dean Britt 21. Mawene Hiroti
Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jack Bird 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Tom Dearden 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Tevita Pangai. Interchange: 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. David Fifita 16. Thomas Flegler 17. Joe Ofahengaue. Reserves: 18. Patty Carrigan 19. Gehamat Shibasaki
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