Round 25: Broncos v Knights preview
The Broncos and Knights might have different schedules after Round 25 but there is no doubt both sides will want to make a statement in the final round of this NRL season.
With nothing to play for after this weekend, the Broncos will be looking to make a final statement on the competition as they go for a third consecutive year without playing finals football. The Broncos currently sit in 15th spot on the ladder with the potential to move up a spot with victory and result going their way.
Last weekend, the Broncos were good at times but were outplayed by the Sharks in their 24-16 defeat at Suncorp Stadium. Discipline was an issue through the 80 minutes for Brisbane as they finished the game with four players on report and spent a quarter of the game reduced to 12 men with Thomas Flegler and Brendan Piakura spending time in the sin bin. The Broncos had enough chances to get back into the game, with the Broncos having attacking opportunities in the final half-hour but they were kept scoreless.
The Broncos have been forced into two changes with Thomas Flegler and Brendan Piakura suspended for the final round, Ethan Bullemor moves into the starting line-up replacing Flegler, whilst Rhys Kennedy is added to the bench. Jordan Riki is expected to be fit for the contest on Saturday after being a late withdrawal last weekend. The Broncos have also added Corey Paix and David Mead to the bench.
For the second straight season, the Newcastle Knights will be playing in the finals, ensuring their spot with a dramatic 15-14 victory last weekend over the Gold Coast Titans. Years of mediocrity have seemed to have been wiped away for the Novocastrians albeit managing just 7th place for the second year in a row.
The Knights weren't anywhere near as impressive as they would've hoped to be as it was Mitchell Pearce's 79th minute Field Goal that got the Knights home over the Gold Coast Titans. The Knights would be disappointed with their performance although they were without a number of key forwards which made a big difference to their side. The Knights will be hoping for plenty of improvement and to make a statement against the Broncos to show they are more than just making up the numbers in the finals.
Despite the game not playing any part in the Knights final finishing position, Newcastle coach Adam O'Brien has elected to not make wholesale changes to his squad for the clash. Hymel Hunt, Jacob Saifiti, Jayden Brailey & Mitch Barnett have all been rested by Adam O'Brien. Starford To'a replaces Hymel Hunt on the wing whilst David Klemmer returns from suspension whilst Chris Randall and Brodie Jones come into the starting side. Phoenix Crossland and Jack Johns move to the bench.
Who to watch: Since returning to the Broncos starting side a fortnight ago against the Warriors, Anthony Milford has had his strongest period of form in a very long time after a disappointing season. Milford has had as many try assists in his previous two games than he did across the first 12 rounds of the competition and he will be looking to end a tumultuous period at the Broncos on the high.
A high-profile signing for 2021, Tyson Frizell was expected to have a massive impact on the Newcastle forwards this season but his form has been below what was expected of him this season. Frizell will need to find some form for the finals and the final round contest against the Broncos could be the perfect opportunity to do so.
The favourite: The Knights are slight favourites ahead of the Broncos given the strength of the line-up even with players rested for the Knights. The markets at one stage had the two sides equal odds.
My tip: It's hard to go past the Knights, the game might be a lot closer than many think with the Knights potentially looking to not go as hard in the final round in what is essentially a nothing game for the Knights as they can't move positions on the ladder. The Broncos will want to make a statement in their final match and they will make it tough for Newcastle but I think they the Knights have an extra gear. Newcastle by 8.