Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
SEQ Derby gets new spice
There was always a little bit of conjecture around Ash Taylor's departure from the Broncos to his current club at the Titans, with the six-time premiers more than a little perturbed that a halves prodigy destined for the maroon and gold number seven was snatched from under their nose by their newest neighbours.
Flash forward a couple of seasons and Brisbane now seem to have no trouble admitting they want Ash back, with head coach Wayne Bennett admitting he "never wanted to lose a player of Taylor's ability" talking to Brisbane's The Courier Mail during the week.
Whether it was grandstanding to add spice to this local rivalry or not, it's worked. The war of words among the fanbases is amping up and there's no doubt both sides would be keen for a win here - albeit for very different reasons.
At the northern end of the M1, the Broncos are cruising toward the finals with a top four berth in the offing if they can maintain their form line heading toward September. A lowly Titans outfit should be a stepping stone for them, but could also be a massive banana peel. In a bonus they get 2017 Origin debutant Corey Oates back on the wing, but have lost hooker Andrew McCullough, forcing Ben Hunt to hooker and bringing Kodi Nikorima back to partner Milford in the halves.
The Titans are a whole different prospect - theoretically out of finals contention, they will want to wipe away some demons from the Round 7 clash between these sides at Suncorp Stadium where former Titan James Roberts broke their hearts with a last-minute try to record a two-point victory. Karl Lawton will miss the remaining five games for the seaside outfit while Jarryd Hayne has been moved back to fullback, John Olive listed for a start in the centres.
These rivals have played 22 matches and it's ALL gone the Broncos way save for five Titans' wins. Brisbane's 17 wins have come from 11 successes at Suncorp out of 12 played, while the ledger is more even at Cbus with the visitors holding a slender 6 wins to 4 advantage over ten matches.
Who to watch: The Titans really failed to fire on Sunday up against an equally out-of-sorts Wests Tigers, and got a thumping for their troubles. After a strong start to the 2017 Origin series as the new Blues hooker, Nathan Peats has gone a little quiet for the Gold Coast and needs to get back to basics if the Titans are to roll the Broncos on Saturday. With his opposite number out, forcing the Broncos into makeshift arrangements at dummy half, it's on Peats to lead the Titans from the ruck.
The man who'll go ear to ear with him in the scrum for this one is listed as Ben Hunt. What lineup actually takes the field is anyone's guess - we may yet see Kodi Nikorima pack in at hooker - but however the experiment pans out for Wayne Bennett in the absence of McCullough, will go a long way to deciding if the Broncos are true premiership material. Watch this space.
My tip: These 'derby' matches are great in that they can throw up any number of random results. Sadly, neither form or history are on the Gold Coast's side. Expect the Broncos to overcome the loss of their first-choice hooker and put a valiant Titans side to... you guessed it... the sword. Broncos by 8.
1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Anthony Don 3. Dale Copley 4. John Olive 5. William Zillman 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Nathan Peats 10. Ryan James 15. Morgan Boyle 12. Joe Greenwood 13. Max King 14. Tyrone Roberts 16. Leivaha Pulu 17. Agnatius Paasi 18. Nathaniel Peteru
1. Darius Boyd 18. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Korbin Sims 11. Alex Glenn 10. Adam Blair 14. Sam Thaiday 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 9. Ben Hunt 15. Tevita Pangai 16. Joe Ofahengaue 20. Herman Essese