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Andrew Pelechaty previews the year’s second XXXX Derby, which doubles as Brisbane’s “wooden spoon” grand final. This is what we have to look forward to.

FORM LINE

Brisbane Broncos

Canterbury-Bankstown’s win over South Sydney last week finally put Brisbane into last place, making all the Broncos haters very happy. Brisbane had a chance to return to 15th against Parramatta, but lost 26-12. Trailing 10-0, a barnstorming try to David Fifita (who went off with an ankle injury early in the second half) put Brisbane back in the game, before two tries to Clint Gutherson gave Parramatta a 20-6 halftime lead. It looked enough – if you factored in Brisbane’s traditional second half collapses – but the Broncos were first to score after the break through Herbie Farnworth. A poor pass by Isaac Luke was picked up by Jai Field, who ran 60 metres to seal the the game.

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North Queensland Cowboys

North Queensland’s loss to Penrith had a similar pattern to their loss to the Melbourne the week before: both times they were blown away in the first half, but scored some late tries to win back some respectability. The Cowboys trailed 26-0 early in the second half against Penrith, before tries to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Kyle Feldt ensured it wasn’t a complete rout, with the Panthers winning 32-12 to celebrate their third minor premiership.

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SQUAD NEWS

Brisbane Broncos

1. Darius Boyd 2. Xavier Coates 3. Jesse Arthars 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Richard Kennar 6. Kotoni Staggs 7. Tom Dearden 8. Joe Ofahengaue 9. Issac Luke 10. Payne Haas 11. Jordan Riki 12. Alex Glenn 13. Patrick Carrigan 14. Cory Paix 15. Ben Te’o 16. Corey Oates 17. Jamil Hopoate 18. Rhys Kennedy 19. Ethan Bullemor 20. Sean O’Sullivan 21. Brodie Croft.

North Queensland Cowboys

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Murray Taulagi 4. Daejarn Asi 5. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh Mcguire 9. Reuben Cotter 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Mitchell Dunn 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. John Asiata 15. Tom Gilbert 16. Corey Jensen 17. Francis Molo 18. Emry Pere 19. Jake Granville 20. Ben Condon 21. Justin O’Neill.

KEY STAT

The XXXX Derby used to be a guaranteed blockbuster (especially for Channel Nine, who have this game on their coveted Thursday night slot): nearly every game was a last-minute classic. From the 2015 grand final to round one, 2020, an incredible 10 games were decided by seven points or less. The Broncos spoiled the Cowboys’ opening night at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, way back in round one this season, winning 28-21.

Brisbane lead 32-16 since 1998, with one draw.

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BATTLE TO WATCH

Darius Boyd vs Valentine Holmes

While Boyd has been criticised for occasionally phoning it in during his final season, surely he’ll give 1,000% effort in his farewell game and help the Broncos avoid an embarrassing maiden wooden spoon.

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Holmes came to Townsville with plenty of hype after his NFL stint: he’ll be disappointed to have only played 11 games, missing rounds 10 to 15 through injury. He’s scored four tries, kicked 21 goals (with a season-high six back in round three against the Titans), and shown sparks of brilliance for the struggling Cowboys. With a long off-season ahead, Holmes can finish on a high and give himself some momentum heading into 2021.

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GAME DETAILS

There’s so many narratives in this bottom four contest: both Darius Boyd (Brisbane) and Gavin Cooper (North Queensland) will be playing their final games, and the Broncos will be desperate to offload the wooden spoon.

Every non-Broncos fan will be jumping on the Cowboys’ bandwagon, so the Cowboys get the popular vote in this one.

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North Queensland by two.

Date: Thursday, September 24.
Venue: 7:50pm
Kick-off: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.

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