While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Uncertainty looms over heavyweight matchup
While they may not have come away with two competition points last Sunday, the Roosters managed to emerge from their trek to Canberra with their resolves in tact, having fought back to go down at the death despite missing five representative players. With a three-day turnaround from the opening State of Origin fixture, coach Trent Robinson will be hopeful his game breakers make it back to Sydney in one piece, but even with Mitchell Pearce facing a stint on the sidelines after suffering a concussion, the depth of talent at the Bondi club should ensure a competitive fixture regardless. Sitting just behind their opponents on points differential, look for the Roosters to establish a lead early over a Brisbane outfit that were found wanting last Saturday.
Putting together six consecutive wins heading into last weekend's fixture, the Broncos were dealt a reality check against a Warriors outfit that capitalised on the weakened Brisbane outfit. As has been the case for many years, the representative period cruelled Wayne Bennett's charges as they failed to launch in New Zealand, saving face with a minor James Roberts double in an otherwise disappointing 28-10 loss. Naming an initial 23-man squad for Saturday's fixture, the visitors will be buoyed by the return of Andrew McCullough at hooker, while they wait to determine the fitness of their six Maroons representatives. Unable to complete his Origin debut after suffering a head injury, Anthony Milford may be an omission from the final 17, with Benji Marshall his likely replacement. Since returning to Brisbane, Wayne Bennett has overseen four wins from six clashes against the Roosters, including an emphatic win at Suncorp two months ago.
Who to watch: With neither side being able to muscle up in defence or conjure the points required last week, the convergence of those two traits may well lie in Roosters utility Ryan Matterson. Highlighted for his ability to transition into the forwards earlier this season, the 22-year-old former Parramatta lower grader shapes as a game breaker for Trent Robinson, with his ability to take on the line and create opportunities for support players making his a threat for opposition teams. Producing a career best performance in the defeat to Canberra last Sunday, look for Matterson to continue his ascendance upon returning from injury and push his claims for a regular starting role in the Roosters forward pack.
He may not be a certainty to line up for the Broncos, but if ever there were a time for Benji Marshall to show his credentials as a seasoned campaigner, Saturday night would be the perfect time. Showing glimpses of the form that endeared him to the entire rugby league community, the former New Zealand international won't be looking to overcomplicate his role, but will be acutely aware of the responsibility required to overcome the Roosters. Over the past three decades the Broncos have seen promising campaigns derailed by the strain of representative football; signed for this exact purpose, look for Marshall to play with the poise of his tenure at the Dragons, mixed with the ambitious flair of his Tigers playing days.
My tip: While both sides won't be certain of their final line-ups until an hour before kickoff, the form shown by the Roosters last week should see the home side play with the enthusiasm required to win, regardless of who takes the field. Roosters by 6.
1. Michael Gordon 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Latrell Mitchell 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 19. Connor Watson 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 14. Isaac Liu 16. Aidan Guerra 17. Ryan Matterson 23. Zane Tetevano
1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 20. Benji Marshall 7. Ben Hunt 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 11. Sam Thaiday 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Alex Glenn 15. Tevita Pangai 16. Herman Essese 19. Jaydn Su'a