Championship SQUADS - 2021 Playoffs Week 1
42 mins ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Selection shocks overshadow vital clash.
At the time of this preview being written, there's plenty of chatter around today's stunning omission of Brisbane half Ben Hunt from this contest. What coach Wayne Bennett plans to do in Hunt's place is anyone's guess, with Kodi Nikorima drafted in but the prospect of an in-form Benji Marshall also featuring in the back of the mind. Marshall was at his vintage best in last week's narrow loss to the Roosters at Allianz Stadium, but with Queensland five-eighth Anthony Milford back in the side, Benji's role remains up in the air.
Times are a little simpler for the Rabbitohs, who are returning off their first bye of the season but seem to have a relatively settled lineup with a returning Bryson Goodwin the only key change from their 22-16 loss to Parramatta a fortnight ago.
Despite the Broncos' lofty ladder position by comparison to the Rabbitohs, these two teams contested a fairly tight one just over a month ago. Time will tell if that replicates this Friday.
Last meeting: Round 8 2017 - Rabbitohs 24 Broncos 25
Brisbane recorded an at-times controversial victory over South Sydney on the ANZAC weekend just six rounds ago, with Rabbitohs fans still adamant Milford dropped a pass as he was setting up the match-winning field goal at ANZ Stadium. The Broncos are the dominant side in the 38 clashes these clubs have shared - winning 26 to the Bunnies' 11, with one drawn.
Who to watch: All eyes will surely be on Kodi Nikorima for the Broncos. While it won't be his first time running the show in the halves this season, it will be the first time he's been first choice in the role with Hunt dropped rather than suffering from injury. His pairing with Milford is a preview of the future in the Queensland capital, given Hunt's decision to move south to the Dragons in 2018.
After a patchy, suspension-filled start to 2017, now is the time for George Burgess to step up for the Bunnies. While he and his brothers have often worn the enforcer tag with pride, in the last 18 months George in particular has had a far less admirable record, already having missed six of the Rabbitohs' twelve games so far this season. Injuries have resulted in the twin being granted a reprieve into the starting pack in recent weeks - so now is the time for him to cut the crap and carry the 2014 premiers forward... without the niggle.
The favourite: It's all Brisbane here, South Sydney are practically friendless in this market. For the first tryscorers Oates, Roberts and Kahu are all at short odds, while the best bet for the Bunnies is winger Alex Johnston.
My tip: Souths might have gone close in Round 8, but this Broncos side - particularly with it's Origin cohort having their positions for Game II threatened - will have a point to prove. Couple that with the home ground advantage Suncorp offers and it's a maroon and gold night ahead for mine. Broncos by 14.
1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 17. Kodi Nikorima 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 14. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 11. Sam Thaiday 15. Tevita Pangai 18. Joe Ofahengaue 19. Benji Marshall
1. Cody Walker 2. Alex Johnston 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Bryson Goodwin 5. Aaron Gray 6. John Sutton 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Robbie Farah 10. George Burgess 15. Tyrell Fuimaono 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess 14. Damien Cook 11. Kyle Turner 17. Zane Musgrove 20. Robbie Rochow
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Peter Gough; Sideline Officials: Belinda Sleeman, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Bryan Norrie;