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PREVIEW: New Zealand Warriors vs Brisbane Broncos

Super Saturday starts at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland when New Zealand Warriors host Brisbane Broncos.  There’s two interesting news stories set to be played out.  Firstly, how close is Andrew McFadden to being shown the door after the Warriors poor season to date and comments directed at his players after their humiliation against the Raiders a fortnight back.  And where are Brisbane at in relation to their form?  They are now three losses from their last four games and now travel to Auckland just three days after Origin, something that Wayne Bennett is not the least pleased about.

LAST TIME OUT

A fortnight ago New Zealand Warriors took their home game to Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth where they met Canberra Raiders.  The Warriors performance matched the dismal conditions that the players were forced to play in. At half time Canberra were well in control as they led 22-0 thank to first half tries by Blake Austin, Joseph Leilua and Jarrod Croker.  Shaun Johnson breathed a little life into the home side after the break to reduce the Raiders lead to sixteen points.  But in reality it was all the Green Machine as they scored six tries to two in winning 38-12.  McFadden’s post match presser was startling saying their was a ‘lack of trust’ in defence and that he needed “to find people who are willing to put their body on the line”.

In the abridged version of round 12 an under-strength Brisbane Broncos took on an improving Wests Tigers who were coming off a narrow win over bottom placed Newcastle Knights a week earlier.  Ben Hunt had a chance in the final moments to level scores at nineteen all but his field goal attempt went to the right of the posts and in doing so handing Wests Tigers the two competition points.  Hunt and Anthony Milford failed to assert their dominance and at times showed lack of understanding of each others game.  The game ended up at three tries apiece with Greg Eden, Lachlan Maranta and James Roberts crossing for tries.  The Broncos falling to three losses in their last four games in defeat.

KEY BATTLES

The two halfbacks in Shaun Johnson and Ben Hunt have a lot to prove this week.  Hunt’s performance against Wests Tigers was below par in a match where he needed to stand up and show some leadership for the baby Broncos.  Hunt is seen as a future captain of the club and last Friday’s performance cast doubts over that.  As for Shaun Johnson, all the pressure is on Johnson to get this Warriors side firing.  It’s one thing to leak points in defence but it’s another to set up attacking plays.  Expect Johnson to be targeted in defence to limit his performance in attack.

It’s a big game for former Raider Travis Waddell at hooker as he replaced Andrew McCullough who is out with a broken thumb.  The twenty-six year old has made 75 National Rugby League appearances and over the next few weeks could be the best option at hooker for the Broncos.  It’s important that Waddell gives good service out of dummy half for the forwards to get on top of the Warriors.  He will be up against Issac Luke who’s had a disappointing start to his first season at the Warriors.  At the start of the season I thought Luke would be able to turn the tide of an inconsistent and at times, disinterested Warriors culture.  It seems right now he has fallen into that culture.  It’s a big game for Luke if the Warriors are to start moving away from the bottom of the ladder.

PREDICTION

Wayne Bennett opted to ‘rest’ Corey Oates and Matt Gillett when announcing his side on Tuesday before Origin was played.  They will have some tired boys with Sam Thiaday and Corey Parker playing 69 and 56 minutes respectively on Wednesday night.  So this is the best chance for New Zealand Warriors to cause an upset.  However I expect Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford to improve this week.  Their class, combined with a cloud of the Warriors in defence and with coach ‘Cappy’ McFadden, gives the Broncos a huge advantage.

Broncos by 16

SQUADS

Warriors: 1 Tuimoala Lolohea, 2 David Fusitu’a, 3 Blake Ayshford, 4 Solomone Kata, 5 Manu Vatuvei 6 Thomas Leuluai 7 Shaun Johnson 8 Jacob Lillyman, 9 Issac Luke, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Bodene Thompson 12 Ryan Hoffman (c), 13 Simon Mannering. Interchange: 14 Nathaniel Roache, 15 Sam Lisone, 16 Albert Vete, 17 Charlie Gubb 18 Ligi Sao

Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd, 2 Lachlan Maranta, 3 Jack Reed, 4 James Roberts, 5 Jordan Kahu, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 Josh McGuire, 9 Travis Waddell, 10 Adam Blair, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Sam Thaiday, 13 Corey Parker. Interchange: 14 Jarrod Wallace, 15 Tevita Pangai, 16 Joseph Ofahengaue, 17 Kodi Nikorima, 18 Herman Ese’ese, 19 Jai Arrow

Kick-off: Saturday 3pm AEST, 5pm NZ

Venue: Mount Smart Stadium

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