As NRL Finals Week 3 approaches, injuries are the key for so many sides. It’s really only the Melbourne Storm that are injury free, with the Broncos losing Peter Wallace for the year with a broken ankle, they have Justin Hodges still not quite 100 percent and face the prospect of throwing rookie Ben Hunt.
Hunt has only played the 2 NRL games this season for the Broncos and both times the Brisbane side was smashed.
The other concern is Darren Lockyer, with some insiders suggesting the veteran may be concealing a minor injury of some sort – with the five-eighth struggling at times and pulling up very sore after the game.
The Broncos face a finely tuned Storm side, a team who were very clinical in Week 1 of the finals – absolutely hammering Manly and looking the goods. The Storm will again have the home ground advantage, playing out of Etihad Stadium and will have a generous crowd behind them.
Have the Broncos played their Grand Final already? They did expend a tonne of energy against the Dragons, but if their forwards in the shape of Nick Kenny, Ashton Sims and Sam Thaiday can again dish out the heavy stuff – they could rattle the Storm and lay a good foundation for their speed men to do the rest.
Back in Sydney, its the promoters dream with the Eels overcoming the Titans to now face the consistent Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium. The Eels are working hard on key playmaker Daniel Mortimer to get his hip right for the game, with club Doctor Michael Johnson suggesting Mortimer has responded very well to treatment and is a 75 percent chance of taking the field.
Feleti Mateo did a very handy job in filling in for Mortimer and the size of Mateo might be something that will lead Anderson to start with the more experienced playmaker over the underdone rookie.
The other worry for the Eels is on their edge, with improving rookie Jon Wright rolling his ankle at the backend of the Titans game. Wright has been covering for Kris Inu for the past 3 weeks and has come on in leaps and bounds. His combination with Luke Burt on the Parramatta left edge has been dangerous in attack and while he has a few things to learn in defence, he looks a strong contender.
With Wright injured, and Kris Inu still fighting a hamstring problem – Anderson will be torn between two talented players, both injured – or perhaps forcing a reshuffle and pushing Ben Smith into the centres. The Eels still have Kris Keating in reserves and the livewire half could be a utility option if needed.
For the Bulldogs, they will have enjoyed the week off and the extra time to get Brett Kimmorley ready to go. Noddy spoke with media late last week and admitted his fitness, timing and confidence are a little jaded, but the extra week off has really helped him build back up.
Kevin Moore put the Bulldogs through a heavy contact session against their lower grades and Noddy, along with Jamaal Idris pulled up ok. Rookie of the year Idris has been working hard on a knee injury the past fortnight and there is no secret that the Bulldogs will need his raw attack on the fringes.
A big crowd is expected for this clash, some suggesting their could be over 50,000 in attendance – where the battle of the forwards could be the key. With both teams having injured halves, expect so much to ride on the clash of the big men. Hennant vs Cayless, Eastwood vs Moi Moi and the workhorses Hindmarsh vs Stagg – it’s going to be possibly the clash of the year.