Round 7: Broncos v Sharks preview
Two very different formlines meet at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night when the Brisbane Broncos take on the Cronulla Sharks as ANZAC round continues.
Brisbane have been extremely poor in 2019, with just 1 win from their opening five matches, which included last weekend's 26-22 defeat to the Raiders in Canberra. The Broncos have been criticised from all corners for their efforts this season with accusations of the side not putting in 100% in their matches - with a handful of players come in for even closer scrutiny. Last round they were totally outplayed by the Green Machine, and although it was an improved performance, the scoreboard still flattered the Broncos somewhat.
Coming into this season, Brisbane had high expectations upon themselves with new coach Anthony Seibold but they have failed to really threaten any of the top teams. They've struggled in all parts of their game, but in particular in defence. On the stats sheet they have the most ineffective tackling record in the league, and sit fourth in the missed tackles category. This week they have named James Roberts on the wing after he started on the bench last weekend, with Kotoni Staggs benched. Other changes see the returning Tevita Pangai Jnr named to start at lock with Thomas Flegler and David Fifita both bench players.
Cronulla had to do it all in the second half, and that's just what they did when they overturned a 14-0 deficit to take a 24-20 victory over Penrith last Thursday. They were poor in the first half last week, but their second stanza was exceptional, overturning the reasonable deficit and taking their chances. The Sharks' season has been mixed - wins over the Titans and the Cowboys in the first 3 weeks before back to back losses came prior to the win over the Panthers.
John Morris' side had all sorts of question marks over their credentials this season with off-field dramas, the late loss of former coach Shane Flanagan as well as the appointment of a rookie coach in Morris. The Sharks have shown glimmers of good fortunes this season with a strong performance in tough conditions in Townsville and then were entertaining in the second half against the Panthers.
The two sides have played 38 times in the past 20 years, the Broncos dominate the head-to-head 25-13. The Sharks have only won 4 times against the Broncos at Suncorp.
Who to watch: Brisbane captain Darius Boyd has arguably had the worst performances of any player in the Broncos' lineup, and the fans have been queueing up to take swipes at the fullback's performances and seeming lack of any defensive guts to make tackles. Boyd was much better last week in Canberra but still needs to put in a better performance this week if Brisbane want to challenge in this game - as well trying to re-rail their season.
The Sharks' big off-season signing Shaun Johnson has been somewhat missing this season, with plenty of below par performances and mind-boggling plays. SJ has shown glimpses - like the Sharks themselves - but at the same time, his fans have been left frustrated because of poor passes, and there has been a hint of Johnson's recurring injury affecting his game which might be a key aspect to watch.
My tip: On the balance of performances last weekend, the Broncos looked much better than the Sharks who only put in a 40-minute performance in against the Panthers. Brisbane will still need to improve - but back at Suncorp, they should get the victory on Saturday. Broncos by 10.