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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Former Broncos add sizzle to Queensland derby
It's time to buckle up for another Brisbane Broncos v North Queensland Cowboys showdown.
While much has changed about the make-up of these clubs during the off-season, there's no passion lost between them.
Johnathan Thurston retired after 14 seasons as a Cowboys megastar, Brisbane coaching legend Wayne Bennett was punted for Dally M coach of the year Anthony Siebold and two Broncos that represented their country were offered a home in North Queensland when their club no longer wanted them.
Five former Broncos (Josh McGuire, Jordan Kahu, Jake Granville, Tom Opacic and Francis Molo) are named to play, with four to play their first match against Brisbane (McGuire, Kahu, Opacic and Molo).
Both Josh McGuire and Jordan Kahu were under contract at Brisbane, but were let go by the club to reportedly ease salary cap pressure to retain some of their up and coming young off-contract talent.
McGuire was a notable missing piece when the Broncos were convincingly outplayed by the Melbourne Storm in a 22-12 defeat last Thursday.
Considering Melbourne has never lost a round one match with Craig Bellamy as coach, and that the Storm are famous for taking their opposition away from how they want to play, the best thing to do could be to throw away the tapes and memories of that match. Corey Oates and Jack Bird were Brisbane's best in a team experimenting with change under Siebold.
The Cowboys brought in life without Jonathan Thurston in the best possible way with a 24-12 win against the St. George Illawarra Dragons in Townsville last Saturday.
Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo stole the show. The team played gradually better as the match went along, and when John Asiata checked into the game his impact took the Cowboys to another level.
A Queensland derby in round two at Suncorp Stadium has become a staple of the NRL draw and they've all been heart-stopping finishes. The 2017 edition was claimed by Johnathan Thurston's field goal in the 87th minute and the 2018 edition ended with a 24-20 Broncos victory after the goal post denied Scott Bolton a try 90 seconds before full-time.
Last meeting: Round 22 2018 - Cowboys 34 Broncos 30
Brisbane led 30-18 after 58 minutes and let in tries to Kyle Feldt, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess to close the match.
Who to watch: It took just one match for Siebold to switch David Fifita from a bench role to the starting back-row. The 19-year-old in 12 NRL matches and one man of the match effort in the 2019 All-Stars game has been earmarked to achieve highly in this league. A by-product to the Broncos releasing McGuire is that gives Fifita a chance at starting, can he repay the faith Brisbane's decision makers have put in him?
In Michael Morgan'sfirst match as the lone North Queensland captain he bagged a try, setup two four-pointers and provided a superb kicking game which was reminiscent of his career best form during the 2017 finals series. The key to him becoming one of the NRL's premier playmakers is to display consistency. The opportunity he has received from Cowboys coach Paul Green in post-Thurston matches like a Queensland derby is the stage he's destined to be a match winner on.
The favourite: With the Broncos playing at home they are the favourite. Form hasn't mattered much in recent history when expecting how these teams will play against each other. Brisbane has won five of the last six matches against the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.
Both teams have started with the same form they brought into last year's round two Queensland derby. Brisbane's 2018 season opener became a 22-point loss to the Dragons in Wollongong and the Cowboys beat the Sharks by six at home. The Broncos will be without Matt Lodge (suspension) and James Roberts is under an injury cloud (back spasms).
My tip: Most of North Queensland's try scoring last week was set up by the middle forwards. When the Broncos lost in Melbourne last week, the Storm's forward pack dominated early and maintained pressure that Brisbane's forwards could not repel. Siebold has shuffled his starters in the forward pack for this match to prepare for arguably the best forward pack in the competition.
Brisbane's forwards will again struggle, which takes the best of Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima out of the game. Michael Morgan will be the best half on ground and the combination between the Cowboys spine could prove to be a bit rusty, but North Queensland will win this match. Footballers playing against their old club for the first time are on a mission to show what they're missing. Cowboys by 10.
1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jack Bird 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Tevita Pangai 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Alex Glenn 12. David Fifita 13. Matt Gillett 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. Jaydn Su'a 16. Thomas Flegler 17. Shaun Fensom
1. Jordan Kahu 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Justin O'Neill 4. Tom Opacic 5. Javid Bowen 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 15. Josh McGuire 13. Jason Taumalolo 12. Coen Hess 14. John Asiata 16. Mitchell Dunn 17. Francis Molo
Referees: Grant Atkins, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Michael Wise, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Ben Galea, Steve Chiddy;