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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Do-or-die clash at Bankwest Stadium to close out first week of finals
The Parramatta Eels have been one of this season's biggest surprise packets after rebounding from a last-placed finish in 2018 to go close to rounding out this year in the top four.
While their on-field success has been a welcome surprise for their loyal fanbase, it doesn't mean that they aren't eager to go deep into September after crashing out in straight sets two years ago.
The Eels only went down to the Broncos a couple of week's ago in a golden-point thriller. Those extra two points proved vital for Brisbane, who qualified for the finals because of them.
Anthony Seibold's men won't have such great memories of Bankwest though after being trounced 38-10 by Parramatta earlier in the year.
Against one of the competition's best forward packs, the Eels are bolstered by the return of Nathan Brown from suspension.
They will be without Kane Evans though, who was named to start by coach Brad Arthur but failed to have his careless high tackle downgraded at the judiciary.
Broncos fans will be hoping last week's performance against the Bulldogs was a sign that they already had one eye on the finals.
They lack energy and purpose in the 30-14 defeat, falling away after trailing Canterbury by just two points at the break.
It will be interesting to see whether the Broncos are spurred on by last year's finals result, a 48-18 hammering from the Dragons, or if they have already erased it from memory.
Brisbane have been a powerhouse in the league for years, consistently making the finals but the challenge is to convert that into a title having not won a premiership since 2006.
They welcome back Joe Ofahengaue (calf) this week, seeing Patrick Carrigan drop back to the bench.
Gehamat Shibasaki also comes onto the interchange in place of Izaia Perese.
Last meeting: Round 24 2019 - Broncos 17 Eels 16
Who to watch: The battle in the halves could certainly decide this one. Mitchell Moses has taken his game to another level this year, topping the league with 24 try-assists. He has also matured as a player who knows when to force his hand and when to simply roll the ball into touch and try build pressure with defence. Darius Boyd had one of his best games in recent memory a fortnight ago against the Eels, scoring a try and generally backing himself in the one-point win. However, a constant criticism of the Broncos this year has been their lack of a genuine game organising half. That responsibility surely falls on Boyd's shoulders this week given how experienced he is. Anthony Milford has done much of the kicking from the back for Brisbane but will need more support so he can play his own natural game.
The favourite: Home-ground advantage sees the Eels well-favoured here.
My tip: Brisbane will need to stand tall in defence if they are any hope because they certainly won't be able to outscore Parramatta. If the Eels get out to an early lead, they could run away with it. Parramatta by 16.
Outcome: This Sunday's winner moves to Week 2 where they'll face the loser of the Storm-Raiders qualifying final away from home. The loser is eliminated.
1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Michael Jennings 4. Waqa Blake 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 15. Daniel Alvaro 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Manu Ma'u 13. Nathan Brown 14. Brad Takairangi 16. Ray Stone 17. Marata Niukore 18. Tepai Moeroa
1. Anthony Milford 5. Jamayne Isaako 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Alex Glenn 2. Corey Oates 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Matt Gillett 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 16. Gehamat Shibasaki 17. Patty Carrigan
Referees: Ben Cummins, Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: Nick Beashel, David Munro; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Bryan Norrie;