The 2018 NRL season gets underway this Thursday night when the St.George-Illawarra Dragons play hosts to the Brisbane Broncos.
Dragons: Matthew Dufty; Nene Macdonald, Euan Aitken, Timoteo Lafai, Jason Nightingale; Gareth Widdop, Ben Hunt; James Graham, Cameron McInnes, Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Jack de Belin. Luciano Leilua, Kurt Mann, Leeson Ah Mau, Hame Sele.
Broncos: Darius Boyd; Corey Oates, James Roberts, Jordan Kahu, Jamayne Isaako; Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima; Matt Lodge, Sam Thaiday, Tevita Pangai Jr, Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire; Andrew McCullough, Joe Ofahengaue, Korbin Sims, Jaydn Su’a.
There have been 37 NRL games between these two sides, with the Broncos winning 22 to the Dragons 14 while 1 games has been drawn. Brisbane has won 14 of the last 16 clashes, with the most recent result being a Broncos win 24-12 last year.
The Dragons made a stunning start to their 2017 campaign, winning 6 of their opening 7 games to sit atop the competition ladder. They then had a very tough and tight 1 point loss to the Roosters which was the start of a horror form switch that saw them win just 6 of their remaining 17 matches, leaving them just a win outside a place in the finals. Their attack was greatly improved, in fact it was their best attacking season since their brilliant 2009 campaign. The addition of Ben Hunt in the halves and James Graham up front is expected to do wonder for the Red V.
Brisbane had a solid season last year, sitting solidly in the top 5 for the remaining 17 rounds, however their form wavered late in the season, which proved to end their finals campaign early. They lost to the Roosters 24-22 in the first week of the finals. They then had a hard fought win over the youthful Panthers side 13-6. They were no match in the Preliminary Final for eventual Premiers Melbourne though. The Storm won 30-0. The Broncos have lost their halfback Ben Hunt and opted not to replace him with a new buy.
Widdop v Milford – interestingly both sides have their dominant playmaker at second receiver, which will make for a great battle.
With no form to work from, the home ground advantage has seen the Dragons get the nod from the bookies. However this will be a very close contest.