Broncos v Bulldogs preview

Embed from Getty Images
Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Thursday 7:50pm at Suncorp Stadium

Resurgent Doggies visit battling Broncos.

Round 18 starts with an intriguing bottom-four clash in the Queensland capital. While it's unlikely either of these sides will be playing well into September, there's still plenty at stake as each side has varying degrees of pressure on their coach.

What we know so far is that the Rabbitohs have almost certainly been the 'winners' of last season's infamous coach-swap between Wayne Bennett (now at the Bunnies) and Anthony Seibold (now Brisbane). Seibold's decision making and selections this season have left many fans shaking their heads and experiments like switching Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd between fullback and five-eighth have had mixed results at best. After a disastrous June, the Broncos finally found their feet a fortnight ago, a youthful side downing Cronulla in Round 16, only to stumble against the Warriors at home last week, only able to eke out a draw in front of 31,000 fans.

Canterbury meanwhile, are in a different situation. Nobody expected much of them this year and at times through April and May, concerns grew after a string of poor results that Dean Pay's tenure leading the side was on borrowed time. In more recent weeks though, with the addition of New Zealand captain and former Panther Dallin Watene Zelezniak, the blue-and-whites have recorded upset wins over two top-eight fancies in Cronulla and Newcastle, and even challenged the Raiders in a pre-Origin clash back in June. Whether they can keep up their giant-killing ways against a lower-ranked team is what we'll find out this Thursday, but more of the same gutsy and determined performances between now and September will ensure Pay's position is relatively safe.

In: C.Oates; Out: Coates. Yep, Corey Oates replaces Xavier Coates in the Brisbane backline for this one, while the Bulldogs have injury-enforced changes with Ofahiki Ogden replacing the injured Aiden Tolman up front, and Sauaso Sue's season-ending ACL injury means Danny Fualalo is added to the interchange. One other change sees Adam Elliott brought into the starting side at lock, benching Chris Smith.

Last meeting: Round 21 2018 - Bulldogs 36 Broncos 22

Who to watch: The first player with his given name to play first grade rugby league since Herbie Timms laced up for South Sydney in the 90's, Herbie Farnworth is already turning heads at Brisbane. The English-born centre has retained his place for a few weeks now and will be keen to continue to impress. Racking up 20 appearances in the Queensland Cup with Broncos' feeder club Norths, he's proven a prolific tryscorer and now will want to break his NRL duck in his third appearance.

Opposite Farnworth will be the in-form Will Hopoate. The Broncos have been vocal in the media about how important it is to shut down 'Hoppa', who's caused plenty of trouble for the outside defenders at the Knights and Sharks in the previous fortnight. With Jack Cogger and Watene-Zelezniak in form too, a fairly pedestrian backline suddenly is looking very exciting for Bulldogs fans who've been starved of watching their side attack for several years now.

The favourite: It's hard to go past Brisbane at home, even allowing for Canterbury's good form.

My tip: Brisbane will be burning from that draw last week - expect plenty of points in this one but a home victory in the end. Broncos by 6.

1. Anthony Milford 2. Corey Oates 3. Kotoni Staggs 11. Alex Glenn 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 16. David Fifita 12. Tevita Pangai 13. Thomas Flegler 14. James Segeyaro 15. Joe Ofahengaue 17. Patty Carrigan 18. Rhys Kennedy

1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Brandon Wakeham 7. Jack Cogger 8. Ofahiki Ogden 9. Michael Lichaa 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 13. Adam Elliott 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 15. Renouf To'omaga 16. Danny Fualalo 17. Chris Smith

Referees: Ben Cummins, Belinda Sharpe; Sideline Officials: Todd Smith, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;

Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre