Shannon Meyer previews Saturday’s clash between the Bulldogs and the Broncos at ANZ Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Canterbury looked broken a few months ago, with the only fight left in them being the one looming with the Gold Coast Titans for last. But something changed, and all of a sudden they became hard to beat, and mounted the unlikeliest charge towards finals football. The loss last weekend against the Cowboys put the calculators away for the season, but hopefully the momentum can be maintained into the next season.
All the Bulldogs wins in this late season surge have come against either top eight sides, or top eight hopefuls, the most impressive was keeping South Sydney tryless in a 14-6 win in round 22.
Since State of Origin three only the top three have won more games, and only the Roosters and Melbourne have conceded less than the Bulldogs’ 113 points (average of 14 a game). However, highlighting the close nature of the Bulldogs wins in the same period, only the Gold Coast have scored fewer points.
The Broncos sit seventh on the ladder, and are almost guaranteed finals football, aided by the fact that their two competitors – the Sharks (eighth) and Wests Tigers (ninth) play each other. Although both teams are only one competition point behind the Broncos and have a far superior for-and-against. A cynic could say that perhaps if Brisbane lose on the Saturday that it would be in the Sharks and Tigers’ best interest to draw their Sunday afternoon game.
Brisbane have been hot and cold this season but have picked up in the back end of the season. Since Origin three they have secured five wins and a draw from eight games, with their only losses coming against South Sydney in the highly-charged affair, and a routine defeat from Melbourne at Suncorp.
The worry is their form in Sydney on a Saturday night, where they have lost both of their fixtures this season.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak is out for the Bulldogs through injury, his place at the back has been taken by the safe hands of Will Hopoate. This means a new centres combination of Morgan Harper – who makes his NRL debut – and Reimis Smith, who returns from suspension.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ Squad:
1. Will Hopoate 2. Nick Meaney 3. Morgan Harper 4. Reimis Smith 5. Jayden Okunbor 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Adam Elliott 14. Jack Cogger 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17. Chris Smith 19. Danny Fualalo 20. Isaiah Tass 21. Fa’amanu Brown 22. Ofahiki Ogden.
Jake Turpin returns from suspension for the Broncos, meaning Sean O’Sullivan drops back to the reserves bench, which is good news for Norths in the Intrust Super Cup, as they play a knockout finals match on Sunday. Sadly for the Redcliffe Dolphins one of their stars – Izaia Perese – has been promoted to the bench from the reserves. Redcliffe also play a knockout final on Sunday, and Perese has been in top form.
Brisbane Broncos’ Squad:
1. Anthony Milford 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Alex Glenn 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 13. Patty Carrigan 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Izaia Perese 17. Rhys Kennedy 18. Sean O’Sullivan 19. Gehamat Shibasaki 20. Shaun Fensom 21. Joe Ofahengaue.
HEAD TO HEAD
The two teams met not long ago in July, and that match ended in a reasonably easy 28-6 win to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium. The win saw Kotoni Staggs and Corey Oates scoring doubles, and the Broncos’ young forwards were the key.
Overall, the head-to-head from 1998 sees the Broncos ahead 23-18. Brisbane’s record away to the Bulldogs isn’t bad either, with a 50 per cent win rate. The Bulldogs hold the advantage at ANZ Stadium however, winning the last three contests against the Broncos at the Olympic Stadium, and six of the last eight. The Broncos lost their only game at ANZ Stadium this season.
Brisbane have also only won once in Sydney this season in four attempts, the Bulldogs have won their last four.
The key battle is between the two packs on Saturday night – whoever owns this wins the game. Given the low scores in Bulldogs games in the past few months, the forwards will be as important as ever.
Canterbury’s forwards are hard working and tough, and are a vastly more experienced bunch, but they do lack the impact that some of the young forwards have had at the Broncos this season.
That impact has come especially from Payne Haas and David Fifita, who have been some of the best young forwards in the whole competition in 2019. Both have been game breakers for the Broncos throughout the season. Tevita Pangai Jnr too, before the $1 million was mentioned.
With a mostly out-of-form Darius Boyd and rotating roster of halfbacks, the young Broncos pack have stepped up this season, often winning games for Brisbane on the back of their power game.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday September 7
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Grant Atkins, Chris Butler
WHO WILL WIN?
For all of the Bulldogs’ great late season revival, the Broncos have a few extra game breakers which will make the difference. Only just though.
Broncos by four.