NRL Match Preview: Raiders v Broncos

The ninth-placed Raiders find themselves in a battle for a top eight spot this week when they head up to Queensland to face the eighth-placed Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

Before the representative round the Raiders thrashed the Wests Tigers in Campbelltown 48-12, including winning the second half 38-0.

The Broncos are coming off a narrow 20-16 win over the Cronulla Sharks and have won three of their last four games.

Junior Paulo returns for the Raiders, replacing the injured Luke Bateman on the bench, in the only change to the 17 which beat the Tigers two weeks ago.

The Broncos have also only made one change with Tom Opacic replacing Sam Tagataese on the bench.

The Broncos will have seven players backing up after the representative round including three Origin players, while the Raiders have six backing up including their lone Origin representative Josh Papalii.

Both sides also have two players backing up from the Denver Test played at the Mile High Stadium on the weekend.

Last Time: The Broncos came out on top 30-20 when these sides met in Round 16 last season at Canberra Stadium.

The Raiders led 16-14 at halftime but a Benji Marshall-led Broncos were too good for the Green Machine.

Key Matchups

Josh Hodgson vs Andrew McCullough

From the moment Josh Hodgson went down with a torn ACL in November last year, Raiders fans have been counting down the days until his return.

He certainly didn't disappoint in his comeback two weeks ago against the Wests Tigers with Canberra looking a different side when he was on the field. Hodgson made a huge impact off the bench with the Raiders outscoring the Tigers 32-0 while he was on the park.

His opposite number this weekend is no slouch with Andrew McCullough backing up from State of Origin this week. McCullough's performances this season cemented his spot as Cameron Smith's successor for Queensland and he makes a huge difference for the Broncos in both attack and defence.

Whoever wins the battle of the number nines will give their side a huge leg up as these two teams battle for a win and a spot in the top eight.

Josh Papalii vs Josh McGuire

Less than a week after they played together for their State, Josh McGuire and Josh Papalii face off for their club sides.

The two big forwards start at lock this weekend despite both feeling just as at home in the front row. They have impressed for their clubs so far this year with both averaging over 120 running metres per game and a tackling efficiency above 90%.

The main difference between the two has been their attacking threat. Papalii has crossed for three tries so far this season and has laid on two try assists while Josh McGuire is yet to do either.

Joey Leilua vs James Roberts

Two more players fresh off representative duty. For James Roberts it was securing the State of Origin Shield for New South Wales on Sunday night in a match where he was sent to the sin bin while for Joey Leilua it was co-captaining Samoa in their match against Tonga.

The two centres both act as one of their sides' main attacking outlets, but in very ways. Roberts uses his pure speed to beat opponents with some calling him the fastest man in the NRL. An approach which clearly works for him, with the young centre having already scored six tries and contributed five try assists.

Leilua, on the other hand, relies less on speed and more on his size and fend with his offload also being one of his major attributes. He too has six tries as well as throwing 28 offloads, the fourth most in the NRL this season.


Quote of the Week:

"One of the most important things is building that team culture and that's one thing we're not short of here at the Raiders."

Junior Paulo speaking about this week's training camp

Head to head: The Raiders have struggled against the Broncos in the past.

They've won only 19 of the 51 previous clashes with there being one draw and Brisbane winning the remaining 31, including the last five.