Round 2: Titans v Broncos preview
South Queensland Rivals Battle for Big Brother Status
It has long been the given that the Brisbane Broncos have held the "big brother" tag over the heads of their rivals an hour down the highway in the Gold Coast Titans. Friday night's showdown at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast, however, could prove to be the changing of the guard.
The Gold Coast have won three of the past four encounters between the two sides and a third straight win over Brisbane could be the catalyst for the roles of the two South Queensland based clubs being reversed.
Despite the pre-season hype, the Titans will need to be far better than what they were last week, going down 19-6 in a lacklustre performance against the Warriors on the Central Coast. Justin Holbrook's men made 15 errors and never really looked like breaking the game open. They will need to be much improved this week against a seemingly improved Brisbane side.
Despite their round 1 loss to Parramatta, there were certainly some positive signs for the Broncos in their first competitive game under new coach Kevin Walters. The men from Red Hill ran up a 16-0 lead, before throwing it away in a second-half fadeout- something that was all too reminiscent of their 2020 season which eventuated in the club's first wooden spoon.
Still though, they showed a lot more promise than they did in 2020 and with the team suffering injuries to Matt Lodge, Xavier Coates and John Asiata during the game, their fadeout can be understood. The Broncos will need to fix the amount of tackles they miss this week more than anything else, with them missing 38 last week.
Despite the round 1 performance, Titans coach Justin Holbrook isn't pushing the panic button just yet. The only change he makes to his team this week is a forced one, with Brian Kelly expected to be sidelined for 3 weeks with a fractured hand. Phillip Sami replaces him in the centres.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters also hasn't been rushed in making team changes after his side too went down in round 1. His only alteration to the 17 is also a forced one, with Matt Lodge out of contention with injury. Thomas Flegler has been promoted to the starting line-up, with Rhys Kennedy coming onto the bench.
Who to watch: Titans fans and rugby league fans in general will be hoping to see more out of star recruit Tino Fa'asuamaleaui on Friday night, after there appeared to be a bit of round 1 rust on the lock-forward. It's not that he did anything particularly wrong, but look for him to have a bit more of an impact this week, especially against a Broncos middle without both Payne Haas and Matt Lodge.
Tevita Pangai Junior will have a massive role to play if the Broncos are to come away with the win on Friday night. Without their usual two starting props available for the game against their rivals, Pangai Junior will need to take the challenge in the middle head-on and lead the Broncos' go-forward. This will be crucial in laying a platform so that Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft can create off the back of it.
My tip: This match should be a really tight one with plenty of desperation shown. Neither of these sides wants to begin their 2021 campaign's having lost their first two matches and with bragging rights on the line, it will only add to the spectacle. The Broncos just appear to be a little short in the middle with Payne Haas (suspension) and Matt Lodge (injury) both out. The Titans should be able to do enough to beat Brisbane in the middle of the park and ultimately that is where the game should be won and lost. Titans by 4.