Just the one game of Friday night football in Round 17 of the 2011 NRL Premiership tomorrow with the Parramatta Eels favoured to take care of the undermanned Brisbane Broncos.
With a host of players out of action on origin duty it’s going to be a tough one for punters with form lines more or less thrown out of the window.
Lockyer, Thaiday, Parker, Hodges, Yow Yeh and Hannant all out for the Broncos with the Eels major strike weapon Jarryd Hayne also not available for them.
Brisbane have proved in the past that their young blokes can step up to the mark when called upon and in reality there won’t be a single debutant in their team.
Brisbane have learned how to cope during this period of the season and there are actually less out than usual.
The key for them is Peter Wallace, he’s been a passenger all year and it’s about time he step up and take some responsibility at number seven.
It was only a couple of years ago that Wallace himself was in Origin camp as the NSW halfback but that’s a world away when looking at his recent form.
He’s out of position in defence and missing one on one tackles but that’s not the biggest problem.
Wallace is there as a second option in attack, a bloke who should be taking the pressure off Lockyer.
It’s something he’s not doing and in the last few weeks every one of his attacking kicks have been way off the mark.
He’s blowing chances at the end of sets in good field position, Lockyer has been good enough to cover it up but tomorrow night the pressure is all on him and the result of the game lays in his hands.
Corey Norman isn’t yet a top flight five-eighth and he needs to play second fiddle, that means Wallace needs to control the team, get them out of trouble and most importantly be a threat in attack.
While he’s just one player and he can’t win the game on his own, he’s the most important player in this matchup and if he has a bad game the Broncos simply cannot win.
Having said that Parramatta certainly don’t deserve to be so short, they’ve played well for a couple of weeks but it hasn’t been against the best playing teams.
Yes they should have beat Manly but Manly was a shadow of the team they can be, something they showed against St George last week as well.
Even at less than full strength the Broncos are a more than capable outfit and if the Eeels rock up with an all too common lapse attitude they’ll get towelled.
Attitude is and has been the biggest problem in Parramatta for a while now and playing in a game they ‘should’ win will only make things more risky.
Like Brisbane their halves are the key with their ability to score points letting them down big time.
Forget their huge score against a Gallen-less Cronulla, plenty of what they’ve done has come from individual brilliance far more than great play.
To be fair McGuire is certainly improving and Robson can only do so much with the ball he gets.
Arguably the most underwhelming forward of 2011 has been FuiFui MoiMoi, everyone knows just how good he can be but we haven’t seen it for a long time.
Unfortunately for Fui he’s lost that sense of intimidation he once had, players no longer fear running into him and they certainly don’t fear him running at them.
He’s been destroyed in defence a number of times lately, something we’ve never seen before (with the exclusion of Burgess in the Four Nations).
More often than not in games like these the game can be decided by the bench, who has what and what do they offer.
Naturally you’d assume the Eels to have the upper hand here given the players Broncos have out but such is the credit to Brisbane that you’d actually look at it the other way.
For the Eeels we have Shackleton, a man of proven ability at the Roosters who hasn’t done much at all since making the switch.
Manuokafoa, a player that can be a threat and a half when he wants to be but has plenty of mistakes in him as well.
Carl Webb, an overweight and unfit has been who is arguably one of the worst buys of the season.
Justin Horo, the exception here, he’s been putting in well and has caused massive problems for the opposition on a few occasions.
Compare that with what Brisbane has and the $2.30 odds start to like a fair bit more enticing.
Andrew McCullough, dropped on discipline grounds two weeks ago and will prove himself a better bench player than a starter as he looks to prove a point.
Ben Hunt, one of their best up and comers and a guy who offers them a real spark when he takes to the field.
Mitchell Dodds, understated and unassuming, probably needs to muscle up even more tomorrow but deserves his spot.
David Hala, the x-factor of x-factors, injured for two years and has exploded back onto the paddock as a crowd favourite in the making.
In the end then? If the bench performs Brisbane outplay Parramatta.
While I’m reluctant to pick them with so much relying on Peter Wallace, their roster is still better on paper then Parramatta.
Brisbane are playing smart and controlled football in 2011, that beats an inconsistent basket case without their strike weapon every day of the week.
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