Round 2: Broncos v Cowboys preview
Polar opposites clash in traditionally close "derby" contest.
The last several clashes between this pair have been ridiculously close - the biggest winning margin for either side since 2015 is Brisbane's ten point win in the final round of the regular season last year. But more on that later.
Coming into Round 2, these two sides are at opposing ends of the scale. Despite losing Michael Morgan pre-game last week, the class of the Cowboys shone through to down the Sharks at home in Townsville. Brisbane on the other hand? Yeah, I don't think they'll be wanting to chat much about that season opener. Demolished by the Dragons, Wayne Bennett's men have plenty to work on.
Defence is arguably where Brisbane's key failure lies. They were cut apart by Ben Hunt and a rampant Dragons forward pack last Thursday, and this contest will be no easier with one of the game's greatest in JT - and another legendary JT in the forward pack as well. If Thurston and Taumalolo find their groove early, it could be an ugly night for the Broncos.
In team news it's unlikely we'll see any changes to the sides named on Tuesday - Brisbane have indicated they're likely to go into this one as named, and Cowboys' coach Paul Green ruled out Morgan returning on Thursday. The Cowboys have gone with the squad that got the job done last Friday while Brisbane's side is largely unchanged with just the adjustment of McCullough back into starting hooker and Thaiday benched.
The recent history is absolutely insane between these two sides. Four of the previous six clashes between the pair have been decided by a solitary point. The 2015 Grand Final, both regular season clashes in 2016 and the first match between these sides in 2017 were all one-pointers, with their semi finals meeting in 2016 going to the Townsville side by six points - in extra time. Overall the Broncos dominate the contest - owing to their dominance in the 90's and early 2000's - with 31 wins from 48 games since 1995. At Suncorp it's 9 wins to 5 in favour of the home team.
Who to watch: Needless to say there's plenty of pressure on Kodi Nikorima. The gaping hole left by Ben Hunt became frighteningly evident when Hunt himself took the Broncos apart, and the Brisbane half seemed to have nothing to offer in return. His defence left a bit to be desired too so how he copes with his second game in the seven jumper this year will be of interest.
The Cowboys' squad remains strong across the park with only the fullback position of any real concern - and Ben Hampton seemed to handle deputising for Lachlan Coote comfortably last weekend. Instead, the Cowboys need to watch their completions. They were under 70% in Round 1 and that brought a Sharks side that never looked likely to win back into the contest. If they hold the ball and maintain discipline, they won't be beaten.
My tip: Like the punters, I can't see anything but a Cowboys win. Brisbane won't disgrace themselves and this clash often overlooks form to produce a cracker so look for the visitors to take the biscuits, but not by too much. Cowboys by 8.