Broncos v Bulldogs: Triumph for Te Maire; mass COVID changes

Expectations were high for both clubs heading into 2022 after some excellent recruiting which saw Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell head to Brisbane and Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr and Tevita Pangai jnr arrive at Belmore.

To say the Broncos and Bulldogs have been disappointing in the opening six rounds would surely be an understatement as they find themselves in 14th and 16th respectively with a paltry three wins between them.

One of those successes for Brisbane was against the Dogs in round two at Accor Stadium and five weeks later they square off again in a must-win clash.

With a passionate Suncorp Stadium crowd behind them the Broncos go in as warm favourites but coach Kevin Walters will be taking nothing for granted.

The Rundown
Team news

Broncos: The injury to fullback Tesi Niu has opened the door for Te Maire Martin to play his first NRL game since April 2019. The 26-year-old retired in 2020 due to a bleed on the brain but has fought his way back and will make an emotional return this weekend. Herbie Farnworth (leg) is back in the centres and Tyson Gamble is the new five-eighth with Billy Walters going to the bench.

Payne Haas returns from his one-game ban at prop so Keenan Palasia moves to the bench. Cory Paix is the new hooker with Jake Turpin nursing a shoulder injury. Thomas Flegler gets a spot on the bench on his return from suspension and Ryan James drops out. 

Bulldogs: What was originally just two changes with Braidon Burns (hamstring) and Chris Patolo (head knock) sidelined has been increased significantly after several players succumb to COVID protocols on Wednesday.

Brent Naden, Jake Averillo and Ava Seumanufagai have all dropped out of the team initially named on Tuesday; replaced by youngsters Jacob Kiraz and Billy Tsikrikas, while Jayden Okunbor returns to the wing. Declan Casey, Kurtis Morrin, Phillip Makatoa, Zach Dockar-Clay and Zac Hetherington have all been added to the extended squad, which will be trimmed to 19 players on Thursday night.

Key match-up
Thomas Flegler v Luke Thompson: Flegler made 107 metres and 40 tackles in his lone game this season to underline his value to the Broncos but yet again his lack of discipline let him down and he has spent the past fortnight on the sideline. Thompson has played every game and is averaging a tick over 100 metres per match but the Bulldogs' 1-5 record won't sit well with the combative Englishman. Expect these old school enforcers to be coming off the back fence as they search for ascendancy in the middle and expect the man who best controls his aggression to be having the last laugh on Friday.

Stat attack
Broncos No.7 Adam Reynolds (2688) sits second behind Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans (2823) for most kicking metres, despite playing one less game than the Sea Eagles skipper and every other player in the top 10 in this category. Matt Burton's booming kicks have yielded 2396 metres for the Bulldogs, the fourth highest tally in the NRL in 2022.


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