Darius Boyd during a Brisbane Broncos training session.
Darius Boyd during a Brisbane Broncos training session. DARREN ENGLAND

NRL previews for the preliminary finals



1st grand final qualifier

AAMI Park Stadium (7.55pm)

History: Played 42, Storm 28, Broncos 13, drawn 1. At AAMI Park: Played 8, Storm 5, Broncos 3. Last met: Storm 42-12, at Suncorp Stadium, round 17, 2017

DESPITE key upsets already in the final series, the Broncos winning in Melbourne tonight and turning around a decade-long record of four wins in 21 meetings is of David and Goliath proportions. And while that woeful record says more about the Storm domination than the inability of the Broncos to compete, the odds are stacked so heavily against the visitors that even the lucrative $3.85 about the Broncos looks way too short. Not only are the minor premiers at full strength, but they have had the luxury of a game-free weekend to soothe minor ailments. In short, the Storm should be at their peak. Conversely, as courageous as the Broncos were with their goal-line defence against the Panthers, that is a smidgen of what is needed to keep at bay an attack that averaged 26 points a game in the premiership rounds. And a 71% completion rate won't trouble a defence that conceded a meagre 14 points a game all season. In short, to win this the Broncos - admittedly with the bonus of Darius Boyd returning at the back - will have to be at their optimum and hope the Storm drops its guard. And that rarely happens.

TIP: Storm


Matt Scott of the North Queensland Cowboys training at 1300 SMILES Stadium.
Matt Scott of the North Queensland Cowboys training at 1300 SMILES Stadium. MICHAEL CHAMBERS



2nd grand final qualifier

Allianz Stadium (7.40pm)

History: Played 35, Roosters 25, Cowboys 10

At Allianz Stadium: Played 14, Roosters 11, Cowboys 3. Last met: Roosters 22-6, at Allianz Stadium, round 21, 2017

THE possible return of Matt Scott has added more intrigue to the Cowboys' magical mystery tour of recent weeks, but the possible loss of Coen Hess and Antonio Winterstein is yet another kick in the teeth. While the unexpected return of Scott will no doubt lift spirits, surely this must be the end of the road for a team that has eliminated the Sharks and Eels on pure guts, determination and self-belief. Yet the Cowboys have conviction, and they have toughness, with injured skipper Johnathan Thurston rating them the gutsiest NRL team he has seen. And while the Cowboys remain battered and bruised and the Roosters have freshened up after a weekend break, the one certainty is that North Queensland will fight tooth and nail to the end, something missing from the make-up of Sydney's remaining finals team throughout season 2017. The forward battle will be intriguing with human juggernaut Jason Taumalolo obviously the Cowboys' lynch pin and his promised clash with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves pivotal. But as has been the case during the finals, Michael Morgan is the key to the Cowboys attack and the Roosters will need to cut his time with the ball - something easier said than done.

TIP: Roosters

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