Round 25: Dragons v Broncos preview
8th on the line for Brisbane as 9th and 10th face off
The Brisbane Broncos will travel to Kogarah to meet the Dragons in what could possibly be the last game of both these teams' seasons. With a spot in the finals on the line for the Broncos, they'll leave everything out on the field to attempt to steal eighth place back from the Raiders. The Dragons will be hoping to give their fans some hope for 2023, with their campaign coming to a close this weekend.
Showcasing plenty of positive signs throughout the season, Brisbane have started to fall away in recent times. With a top four spot well within sight just a few months ago, a horror past five games, of which they have lost four, as seen them slip all the way to ninth. In the past two weeks they have conceded a combined total of 113 points, while a loss to the Tigers in round twenty has proven to be crucial.
Their performance last weekend was hurt by a number of injuries suffered by key players throughout the match. Ending the game with just thirteen fit players, halfback Adam Reynolds was amongst the first casualties, succumbing to a game-ending head knock early on. Further injuries to Tom Flegler, Kobe Hetherington, and Brenko Lee saw the Broncos collapse against a dominant Eels side.
The large losing margins mean that a finals berth is largely out of the Broncos hands now. Sitting equal on points with the Raiders, they are however 43 points behind on for and against. If the Raiders lose and the Broncos win, Brisbane will be finals bound, however if Canberra win the Broncos would need to have pulled off a victory by at least 43 points more than the Raiders-Tigers margin.
In a big relief for Broncos fans, Adam Reynolds and Thomas Flegler have both been named to play this weekend. Selwyn Cobbo and Patrick Carrigan also return to the seventeen, while Brenko Lee and Kobe Hetherington are out following their injuries last weekend. Delouise Hoeter is the new face in the centres, but the big news is Tyson Gamble's return to the NRL side, with Ezra Mam being dropped to the reserves.
The Dragons mounted an impressive fightback last weekend to edge the Tigers by two with Lomax slotting a penalty goal with less than a minute to go. Nevertheless, their performance against a Tigers side coming off a 66 point loss was disappointing at best. They showed plenty of fight however; down by ten points at the break and having to play with twelve for twenty minutes of the first half.
The win means that they have now won two matches on the trot, and this weekend they have the opportunity to go three straight for the second time this season. With Anthony Griffin's future at the club somewhat uncertain, he will want his team to end the season on a high, and up against the club that he used to coach, a lot will be on the line.
Who to watch: Not appearing in the first grade team for Brisbane until round seven, Tyson Gamble has since played eight matches this season in the NRL - a mixture of five-eighth and, more recently, time off the bench. He played 28 minutes against the Titans in his most recent first grade game, and coach Kevin Walters is taking a huge Gamble (I'm sorry I couldn't resist) choosing him over young half Ezra Mam. The pressure will be on him to make a big return to the NRL stage.
Sitting behind veteran Andrew McCullough in the pecking order for the majority of the season, Jayden Sullivan has made eight NRL appearances this year, with only one of them being in the starting hooker role. Thrown into the number nine jersey last weekend following McCulloughs' injury, Anthony Griffin has trusted him to keep that responsibility for the Dragons' final game of the season, despite McCullough being available for selection. He will be looking to show the Dragons why he deserves a permanent spot in the first grade seventeen going forward.
The favourite: The Brisbane Broncos are the favourites to win the two points away from home this Saturday.