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2 days ago
Welcome back to Campbelltown, Benji.
He's visited Sydney's south-west since he last pulled on a Wests Tigers jumper - that time wearing a red v - but the prodigal son is officially home this Friday night when star five-eighth Benji Marshall runs out onto Campbelltown Stadium as his side hosts another of his former clubs, the Brisbane Broncos.
Plenty has changed at the black, white and orange since Benji's last stint at the Wests Tigers but one thing is for sure - their form so far this season has attracted plenty of attention. Despite scoring only two tries in two games, they sit in the top group of teams with two wins. Their opponents Brisbane struggled in the opening round against a red-hot Dragons side, but bounced back admirably against a quality Cowboys outfit in Round 2. As a result, this shapes as an intriguing contest.
The team news for this one tips in Brisbane's favour. Jack Bird was confirmed a certain starter in the centres on Thursday by Wayne Bennett, a timely return with Jordan Kahu out through a jaw injury. Tom Opacic, originally named in the centres, will shift back to the bench while Jaydn Su'A (originally listed on the bench, returning after a one week suspension) will miss out. The news is no good for the Wests Tigers, with Elijah Taylor to miss the clash through injury. Matt Eisenhuth will deputise for him at lock with Michael Chee Kam back in the side via the bench after missing Round 2.
So it will come down to whether the flash and flair of an exciting Broncos backline can penetrate the resolute defence of the immovable Wests Tigers. It's going to be an interesting evening in Leumeah.
Last meeting: Round 11 2017 - Broncos 36 Wests Tigers 0
These sides only met once last year, and it was a rout for the Broncos at Suncorp. Overall they've met 26 times with Brisbane utterly dominant, recording 20 wins. Of those matches seven have taken place at Campbelltown, a 6-1 ratio for the visitors.
Who to watch: For the Wests Tigers, don't bother watching just one player - watch the penalty count. Friday's hosts copped a massive 18 penalties against the Storm last weekend, and although they won, will be keen to rein in their poor discipline. While there were cries that many of the penalties were unfair, it's more balanced to suggest that even if a few were 50-50's, there's still a need to tidy things up from the Tigers.
Jack Bird is finally unleashed for the Brisbane side and boy don't they need him. The Sharks will have been disappointed to lose the NSW centre and their loss is the Broncos' gain. Expect him to grow further under the tutelage of Wayne Bennett - and expect an injection of class and pace into a Broncos backline that's already struggling for consistency after a couple of weeks of the competition.
The favourite: A strong record against the Tigers and the hosts' inability to score points sees Brisbane earning the support of the punters.
My tip: Despite Brisbane's favouritism, expect the Marshall-led Wests Tigers to extend their winning run here. The loss of Elijah Taylor is big but already this season they've shown the ability to quickly adapt to changes. As a result expect to see a win for the Wests Tigers by 1.
1. Corey Thompson 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Esan Marsters 4. Kevin Naiqama 5. Malakai Watene-Zelezniak 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 14. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ben Matulino 11. Chris Lawrence 12. Robert Rochow 13. Matt Eisenhuth 9. Pita Godinet 15. Alex Twal 16. Michael Chee Kam 17. Josh Aloiai
1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 19. Jack Bird 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Tevita Pangai Junior 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 4. Tom Opacic 14. Sam Thaiday 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Korbin Sims
Referees: Ashley Klein, Matt Noyen; Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Jeff Younis; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Ben Galea;