Round 12: Broncos v Eels preview
Back, back, back-it-up.
That's what Brisbane are tasked with this week after an entertaining (and at times controversial) victory over the Roosters. Too many times this season, the maroon and gold boys have put in a fantastic showing only to get too far ahead of themselves and fall in a heap just a week later.
That task *should* be made easier with them coming up against a listless Eels side languishing in last place, and now having lost one of their captains for the rest of 2018 (with the other already sidelined briefly).
Both sides possess key players with boundless potential - namely Anthony Milford and Corey Norman. The latter has been switched out of the halves by Eels coach Brad Arthur this week and will suit up at fullback, regular custodian Clint Gutherson instead switching to five-eighth. Milford has been rocks and diamonds much of 2018 for Brisbane meanwhile, producing brilliance one week and a patchy effort the next - much like his team's formline.
Then... there's all the off-field drama. This week it's emerged that the Broncos have been in secret talks with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy as a potential successor to his one-time mentor Wayne Bennett. And this - all in the week Bennett is set to coach his 800th first grade match. Whether that has a destabilising effect on the squad is another question altogether.
Aside from the Norman-Gutherson switch, Parramatta have had to make adjustments up front as a result of Beau Scott's season-ending ACL injury. Manu Ma'u moves to the second row, Peni Terepo shifting to lock and Siosaia Vave returns at prop. Brisbane meanwhile, omitted Tom Opacic in favour of the returning Jordan Kahu in the centres, while George Fai earns a call-up on the bench after Korbin Sims' jaw injury.
Brisbane dominate this fixture head-to-head with 31 wins from 53 meetings, but at Suncorp it's much closer with 11 wins to Parramatta's 7. The Eels won both clashes at the back-end of last season, most notably cracking the half-century in Round 25 at Suncorp.
Who to watch: One could argue Brisbane prop (hooker, second rower, halfback...?) Sam Thaiday has benefited from a bit of luck this season - a few injuries to key Broncos have seen the veteran representative forward muscle his way into the starting pack. His job now is to stay there - after a below-par 2017 where he lost favour with Maroons selectors, he's put in a few good shifts this year and will be keen to hold down his spot when teammates slowly return from injury over the coming months.
Parramatta's spine switch is probably one of the key things to watch coming into this game. After struggling to match last year's form, Brad Arthur has split up Corey Norman and Mitch Moses, sending the former to fullback and bringing in Clint Gutherson to partner Moses at the scrumbase. It's either set to be a disaster or a masterstroke - no doubt we'll known more come 9:30pm on Thursday night. For long-suffering Eels fans, we're all hoping it's a masterstroke.