Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
History set to repeat as Origin rolls around once more
Since making the 2011 Grand Final, the New Zealand Warriors have followed a near identical trajectory every year: slow start, mid-season resurgence, disappointing finish. Having fulfilled the criteria of the first third to sit in 13th position with four wins from eleven matches, recent history suggests the Warriors are on-track to kick-start their season as a result of their minimal representative burden. Facing off against Brisbane, the club which has had entire seasons derailed by the Origin period, coach Stephen Kearney will be optimistic about the sides chances of making up for two dismal showings in the weeks following the International weekend. Boosted by the return of veteran Simon Mannering at lock, newly re-signed prop James Gavet will start in the front row in place of Maroons representative Jacob Lillyman. In the only other notable change, Albert Vete returns to the top grade in place of Charlie Gubb on the bench.
Disposing of the Tigers with ease to register their sixth straight win last Friday, the Broncos will head across the Tasman wary of an encounter filled with trepidation. Coming into the fixture without six of their top tier players, coach Wayne Bennett will field a new-look outfit featuring youngsters Jonus Pearson, Jadyn Su'a and George Fai, while also benefitting from the timely return of former Kangaroo Ben Hunt. Long-serving hooker Andrew McCullough will miss Saturday's fixture after being assisted off the field against the Tigers, in his place well-travelled rake Travis Waddell comes into the squad for his first appearance of 2017, while former Kiwi captain Benji Marshall will line up for his first game at five-eighth since Round 26, 2013. Having struggled at times without their representative players, the Broncos will face additional pressure on Saturday having come away with just one win from their past five appearances at Mt. Smart Stadium.
Last meeting: Round 13 2016 - Warriors 36 Broncos 18
Who to watch: Set to join the 300 club in the next month, back-rower Ryan Hoffman has epitomised the Warriors season to date. Possessing a wealth of experience at club and representative level, the former Melbourne forward has been among the best performers during the side's wins, but has also played a part in the continued mediocrity which has become synonymous with the New Zealand outfit. Making just five runs in 80 minutes last week, Hoffman will need to lift if the Warriors are to be a chance of capitalising on the under-strength Broncos, while also pressing his case for a contract back in Australia having been informed by the club his service won't be required in 2018.
It seems like only yesterday versatile forward Alex Glenn made his NRL debut for the Broncos, yet nine seasons into his esteemed career the New Zealand international remains as reliable as ever. Renown for his ability to run terrific lines and punish opponents with rigorous defensive precision, the 28-year-old rates among the clubs best success stories having progressed from Under 20s captain to celebrating his 200th first grade appearance earlier this year. Set to increase his workload in the absence of several Queensland representatives, look for Glenn to relish the opportunity to lead from the front and take the Broncos winning run to seven consecutive wins.
The favourite: While they might be missing six of their regulars, the depth and success of the Broncos in recent weeks has the visitors installed as firm favourites.
My tip: It would be just like the Warriors to be produce a dominant performance over one of the heavyweights of the NRL, but given the form shown by the Broncos this season, it's difficult to see anything other than a Brisbane victory. Broncos by 14.
1. Roger Tuivasa-sheck 2. Charnze Nicoll-klokstad 3. Blake Ayshford 4. David Fusitua 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Shaun Johnson 8. James Gavet 9. Issac Luke 10. Ben Matulino 11. Bodene Thompson 12. Ryan Hoffman 13. Simon Mannering 14. Nathaniel Roache 15. Sam Lisone 16. Albert Vete 17. Bunty Afoa
1. Jordan Kahu 2. Jonus Pearson 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. David Mead 6. Benji Marshall 7. Ben Hunt 8. Herman Essese 9. Travis Waddell 10. Adam Blair 11. Alex Glenn 12. Jaydn Su'a 13. Korbin Sims 14. George Fai 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Jai Arrow 18. Kodi Nikorima
Referees: Adam Gee, Gavin Reynolds; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Chris McMillan; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Bryan Norrie;