Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
33 hours ago
The Broncos diminished representation count for this week?s Anzac Test against New Zealand will provide Brisbane with a feather in their cap for Saturday night?s clash with Cronulla, the club?s care-taker coach Kevin Walters said today.
Traditionally deprived of success during International and Origin periods due to the numerous representatives in their ranks, the Broncos fortunately only require four Kangaroos to back up after Friday?s Brisbane Test for the Toyota Park match against ladder-leaders the Sharks.
Under Broncos? Australian coach Wayne Bennett, five-eighth Darren Lockyer, centre Shaun Berrigan, prop Petero Civoniceva and lock Tonie Carroll make up the Kangaroo quartet and will only play their third game in seven days if they come through the Suncorp Stadium International without major injury.
Surprisingly, the Broncos? Australian contingent for Friday?s battle with the Kiwis is the weakest in recent times, below the count of five to consistently start in the Tri-Nations team and the set of six to feature in the nations? 37-10 Anzac Test win in 2004.
But the Broncos? reduced stock of International material only gives them more ammunition to build on winning back-to-back for the first time this season after Sunday?s win over St.George-Illawarra backed up the 40-point pounding of Parramatta.
Asked if it will be tough for the Broncos this weekend considering a few of their experienced campaigners will need to back up after the Anzac Test, Walters replied after training, ?Yes, it certainly is.?
?(But) this year we are a bit fortunate, we?ve (only) got four players involved in the test on Friday night in the notoriously tough match against the Kiwis.
?The guys in there are pretty experienced players and hopefully get through the game okay for Saturday night to back up.?
One of the reasons behind the Broncos? tally drop in top-level performers is due to the representative retirement of the game?s premier front-rower Shane Webcke, a veteran of 18 Tests, 21 Origins for Queensland and 217 games for Brisbane.
Walters confirmed the high value in Webcke not playing two games in two days, but the prop?s work-load will naturally increase for the purpose of releasing the pressure off front-row partner Civoniceva.
?It will be enormous,? said former Queensland and Australian five-eighth Walters, who played over 250-games for the Broncos and is currently the assistant to coach Bennett.
?He is in good form too Shane, I think his performance on Sunday was the best we?ve see from him this year and we will certainly need all of that for next Saturday night.?
Broncos? Justin Hodges will make his return against the Sharks following three weeks on the sideline after he replaced Scott Minto on the wing.
Hodges suffered a hamstring strain leading up to the round three match against Melbourne and only just failed a fitness test late last week which ruled him out of Sunday?s clash with the Dragons.
Minto drops out of the 17.
Broncos? Test second-rower Dane Carlaw will remain in the Queensland Cup for Toowoomba after utility Casey McGuire, prop Darren Mapp and utility forwards Neville Costigan and Corey Parker were named on the Broncos? bench.
McGuire (corked leg) missed training today but is expected to play at the weekend.
Broncos: Karmichael Hunt, Justin Hodges, Brent Tate, Shaun Berrigan, Leon Bott, Darren Lockyer (c), Brett Seymour, Shane Webcke, Barry Berrigan, Petero Civoniceva, David Stagg, Brad Thorn, Tonie Carroll. Interchange: Corey Parker, Casey McGuire, Neville Costigan, Darren Mapp, Dane Carlaw, Scott Minto (two to be omitted)