Parker: Broncos to have Bunnies on the hop
IT MAY only be Round 8 of the NRL but with all that's been written about the South Sydney Rabbitohs v Brisbane Broncos game this week you'd swear it was grand final week.
Rarely has there been so much written about a club game but given the off-season coach swap, the rumours surrounding player movements and the starts to the year for both clubs, you get a picture of why Thursday night's game means so much.
The Broncos took a giant step forward against the Sharks last weekend, they completed 15 of 15 sets in the first half and had Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai Junior and Payne Haas all run for more than 150m.
Off the back of that, Anthony Milford turned in his best performance of the year, he controlled the game from the outset and kicked the Broncos to victory.
The Broncos game plan isn't a complex one, but they showed last week that when it's executed it's more than effective.
The Broncos will hand a debut to Mackay junior Tom Dearden, who'll become the first 18-year-old to debut in the Broncos No.7 jersey when he runs out tonight.
I was lucky enough to do a bit of work with Tom in the Queensland U18s side last year and there's no doubting that he has a tremendous future ahead of him.
There will be plenty of pressure on Tom but my advice to him would be to embrace it. He's been picked to do a job and that's all he has to worry about, doing his job.
On the other side of the fence the Bunnies have shown this year that they're true premiership contenders.
They haven't changed much from last year and have been running high off the back of the Burgess brothers and Adam Reynold's kicking game.
There are few players in the competition with a kicking game as effective as Reynolds, his ability to change the momentum of a match off his boot is second to none.
You add to that the form of Cody Walker, Damien Cook and Cameron Murray and the Bunnies are a formidable team.
And then there's the icing on the cake of this scintillating battle - the battle of the coaches.
Both coaches have tried to play down the importance of this match in the lead-up but coaches are like players, they are competitive and they don't like to lose and they definitely don't like to lose to their former club.
Neither coach will go to their team and say "hey guys this is a big game for me and I need you to do that little bit extra tonight," but both teams will know how important this game is.
For the Broncos to win on Thursday night they'll need to repeat their effort from last week, they'll need to complete at 90-100 per cent and will need Lodge, Haas and Pangai to chew through the metres so Milford can weave his magic.
For the Bunnies to win, they'll look for the Burgess boys to do the heavy lifting through the middle so they can attack the Broncos on the edge through Murray and John Sutton.
They will rely on Cook to get them over the advantage line from dummy-half and Reynolds to kick them out of trouble.
The Bunnies give sides plenty of opportunities and it will be up to the Broncos to be good enough to capitalise on them, which I think they can and will.
I'm tipping the Broncos by seven, with Milford man of the match and Anthony Seibold to go to bed with a relieved but satisfied smile on his face.
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