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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Another week of footy, another week of interesting stories. If the Mal Meninga column saga isn't setting tongues wagging, it's Mark Gasnier's announcement that he's retiring at the end of the year, Kevin Moore's shock resignation, or the Brisbane NRL Expansion Bid officially announcing their brand as the Brisbane Bombers.
Friday night footy has the potential to throw up a few more entertaining stories for us to devour over the weekend. They might not be about interstate squabbles, retirements, or anything else off the field; but they'll definitely be about the skill and entertainment on it.
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
VS CANTERBURY BULLDOGS
For the last two weeks the Bulldogs have been let down at the back with some costly handling errors. They have better been practising all week, because this game is in Auckland on a cold New Zealand winter's night. In other words, any player who is lacking confidence in catching the ball at a Warriors home game will be in for an horrific night.
They will now be facing the Warriors under Jim Dymock, after Kevin Moore suddenly resigned yesterday afternoon. The mid-season transition of coaches usually leads to an upswing in the team's fortunes: the Panthers are a recent indication of this trend, winning two straight games immediately after Matthew Elliott left last month.
So will the Bulldogs lift under a new head coach? It will be a big ask, especially with the loss of hooker Michael Ennis, but history has shown that teams that undergo a change in off-field leadership will undoubtedly lift - not that this leads directly to a victory though.
Moore's departure from the Bulldogs gives this game an unpredictable edge, and if you're not already interested in this game, the chance to see how the team will react to this situation might just change your mind.
BRISBANE BRONCOS VS
GOLD COAST TITANS
Regardless of who you barrack for, you have to feel sorry for Gold Coast's Mat Rogers, whose comeback from retirement lasted less than a game after breaking his foot in his team's 22-6 loss to the Warriors.
I spoke last week about how Rogers' sheer presence in the Titans environment might buoy them into better performances, but that won't be happening now. Now you have to start asking yourself if his injury will impact negatively on the team.
The Titans are last in the NRL when it comes to their attacking skills. Their 229 points scored is the lowest of any of the teams in the competition, and coming up against a Broncos outfit who have built their season on steadfast defence, things will have to radically change in that department if they are any chance of registering an upset.
I don't know how the Titans can do that though. Not once in the last few months have they even demonstrated that they are capable of providing the attacking options and the defensive attitude needed to register a win. On the other hand, the Broncos are no longer playing with the early-season hype surrounding them, which has allowed them to slip out of the spotlight and simply go about their business without too much fanfare. Currently sitting fifth, they'll like that. Coming off the bye, they will be feeling fresh and ready to rip in.
In the past these two have put on some great performances, and hopefully history will repeat itself tonight.