Cronulla v Manly preview
4 hours ago | Justin Davies
The unpredictables meet - at the most unpredictable time of year.
It's disappointing to start writing a preview for a game like this knowing you've got no idea who to tip. All the factors point to a wild evening at Suncorp Stadium, with the Broncos and Warriors more up and down than any of the rollercoasters down the M1 at Dreamworld.
They say you're only as good as your last game, so let's start with the fact that both sides were winners in Round 16 and go from there. Brisbane took apart the Sharks in the second half at Pointsbet Stadium on Sunday, Payne Haas in particular a standout as the baby Broncos delivered a surprise two-point victory on the road. Their makeshift backline - featuring two debutants and a complete lack of experience outside fullback Darius Boyd - was surprisingly difficult for Cronulla to contain.
The Warriors meanwhile took their time, but eventually overcame a depleted Newcastle outfit. Unaffected by Origin, the Auckland-based side came to McDonald Jones expected to down a Knights side missing key Origin stars, but didn't seal the result until the last five minutes - and even then it was barely safe. But they got there, so let's focus on the positives. Add to that a similar win over the Titans three weeks ago, and that they only lost to Penrith by two points a fortnight ago, and the Warriors aren't doing terribly.
A look at the teamlists and it's still difficult to know what to think. Matt Gillett (groin) won't feature for Brisbane after being withdrawn from Origin, although Oates, Fifita and Ofahengaue are named to return from representing Queensland. There is good news with Anthony Milford coming back in - he'll play fullback with Darius Boyd once again switched to five-eighth. Turpin comes back into the halves with Sean O'Sullivan out injured.
The Warriors just have one key change, with Karl Lawton out injured. He's replaced at hooker by veteran Issac Luke. Chanel Harris-Tavita joins the bench.
Last meeting: Round 11 2019 - Warriors 2 Broncos 8
A war of attrition is the best way to described the clash between these sides some six rounds ago in Auckland. Locked 2-all at halftime, it was Milford who scored the sole four-pointer of the match around the hour mark.
Who to watch: Teammates to opposing five-eighths - and neither lined up in that position in Round 1.
When the first ball was kicked in 2019, both Darius Boyd and Kodi Nikorima were wearing Brisbane's number one and number seven respectively. We now find ourselves in mid-July, with Kodi having switched to his homeland club and lining up alongside Blake Green in the number six, and experienced Bronco Boyd subject to an experimental switch to five-eighth, with regular six Anthony Milford to play in Boyd's fullback role.
How the two go in assisting their halfbacks around the scrumbase will go a long way to deciding this contest, with speedsters on the edges for both clubs no doubt keen to get their hands on the ball and test the Bunker's ability to observe acrobatics. Whether the Boyd-Milford switch will work remains to be seen, but Nikorima will certainly be better for the experience playing alongside NRL journeyman Blake Green and having reigning Dally M medal winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in behind.
The favourite: Home ground advantage and arguably a better result last start see the bookies backing the Broncos.
My tip: If you can tip this one accurately then I think you deserve a medal of some kind. What I will tip is an entertaining contest - a fine day with no rain in Brisbane should see these two sides open the game up more than they did in Auckland in May, and I'm going to say the Warriors should have a few more points in them at the end of the day. Warriors by 6.
1. Anthony Milford 21. Jamayne Isaako 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Herbie Farnworth 5. Xavier Coates 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. Alex Glenn 12. Tevita Pangai 13. Thomas Flegler 14. James Segeyaro 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. David Fifita 17. Patty Carrigan
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2. David Fusitua 3. Peta Hiku 4. Gerard Beale 5. Ken Maumalo 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Blake Green 8. Agnatius Paasi 9. Issac Luke 10. Leeson Ah Mau 11. Adam Blair 12. Isaiah Papalii 13. Jazz Tevaga 14. Lachlan Burr 15. Sam Lisone 16. Bunty Afoa 17. Chanel Harris-Tavita
Referees: Chris Sutton, Matt Noyen; Sideline Officials: Clayton Sharpe, Jarrod Cole; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;