Full Time
4:05pm Sun July 18, 2021
Round 18 - Suncorp Stadium, Milton - Crowd: 24894

Round 18: Brisbane v Wests Tigers preview

Plenty to play for in battle of the also-rans

Sunday's clash between the Brisbane Broncos and the Wests Tigers may have little bearing on premiership ladder, but for two teams running 15th and 14th respectively the result will mean much more than two competition points.

Coming into the contest well-rested after just their fourth victory of the season, the Brisbane Broncos will be hoping to string together consecutive wins for the first time since the opening rounds of last season.

Displaying plenty of spirit to down the Sharks 26-18 prior to State of Origin III, coach Kevin Walters will be approaching Sunday afternoon with trepidation having been lulled into a false sense of confidence following every win this season.

Drawn to play consecutive daytime matches at Suncorp Stadium for the first time since the final matches of Wayne Bennett's second stint with the club, the Broncos will be aiming to continue an emphatic record of 21 wins from 29 meetings against the joint venture.

Set to have representative trio Payne Haas, Xavier Coates and Thomas Flegler on board pending the toll of Wednesday night's final Origin encounter, Cory Paix has been named on the bench ahead of Jesse Arthars.

Aiming to ease the pressure coming from all quarters after conceding 144 points in their past three performances, the Wests Tigers will need to drastically improve as speculation mounts over the future of Michael Maguire.

Going down to the Rabbitohs in a self-described "garbage" performance a fortnight ago, coach Maguire will be demanding a response from his players after questioning their character in the wake of the 38-22 loss.

Following through on his comments of needing to "find men who are accountable" by making a swathe of changes, Junior Pauga and Tukimihia Simpkins will make their NRL debuts, while Adam Doueihi reverts back to five-eighth in a move that sees Moses Mbye relegated to the bench.

Holding a poor overall record at Suncorp Stadium with five wins from 12 previous visits against the Broncos, the joint venture will be hoping to record three consecutive wins over their opponents for the first time.

Last meeting: Round 10 2020 - Wests Tigers 48 Broncos 0

Who to watch: In a season that has brought little joy to Brisbane supporters, young forward Kobe Hetherington has provided a rare glimmer of better days to come. Experiencing a turbulent entry to first grade with a try, send off and contract extension all in the space of six matches, the 22-year-old lock has been among the pick of the three debutants blooded by Kevin Walters over the past two months. Retaining his place in the number 13 jumper after starting for the first time in the win over Cronulla, look for the Hetherington to make an impact during the opening exchanges.

Earning an unexpected invitation to experience life alongside Brad Fittler's Blues, young prop Stefano Utoikamanu will be expected to stand up for his struggling club on Sunday afternoon. Changing stripes from the Eels to the Tigers over the off-season, the 21-year-old Cabramatta junior has averaged 38 minutes in 13 appearances predominantly off the bench in 2021. Averaging 80 metres and 24 tackles each week, Utoikamanu will need to up his involvement after being afforded a rare starting jersey.

The favourite: The Broncos will come into a match as favourites for only the second time this season.

My tip: Few teams have disappointed quite like the Broncos and Tigers in 2021. While the heft of favouritism can weigh upon teams unaccustomed to winning, the Broncos should get the job done against their shambolic opponents. Brisbane by 12.