5 Things to Watch for Tonight
Wests Tigers will look to make it three wins in a row to start the season when they take on the Broncos tonight — a feat never achieved before in club history.
After a gutsy Round 1 win over the Roosters, it was an even more determined performance at AAMI Park last weekend that saw the visitors home against the defending premiers in Billy Slater's 300th match — a performance that would have left Ivan Cleary beaming with pride about the resilience in his team.
The tests don't get any easier, however, with a clash against the Broncos set for Round 3. Brisbane showed their true colours with a fired-up win over the Cowboys in last week's Queensland derby, and with a good record over the home side in Sydney, they'll certainly fancy their chances at making it back-to-back wins.
There's no shortage of storylines in this one, so we've picked out the five you’ll want to keep an eye on…
1. How will Benji's return to Campbelltown go down?
Wests Tigers and rugby league fans in general will certainly remember that one Benji Marshall took to the field for the first time back on July 27, 2003. A wiry, slender playmaker with a bamboozling step, Marshall came off the bench and played fullback as his side produced a performance to remember — a 52-12 hammering of what was a strong Newcastle side. By the time he was starting in the halves in 2004, Campbelltown had soon become his playground — scoring four tries in four matches throughout the next two years en route to the club's maiden premiership. Now back at the club after stints at the Blues, Dragons and Broncos, Marshall's return to Campbelltown will certainly be an emotional one for all, and it'll be fascinating to see what he can show on the field once more. The 33-year-old has been one of his side's strongest through the opening two rounds in place of Josh Reynolds; will that continue again tonight?
2. Will Wests Tigers' back five hold their own once more?
Despite losing Tui Lolohea to a knee injury not long before their clash against Melbourne last weekend, Wests Tigers' back five showed they were more than capable of stopping all who came before them — turning in a terrific performance to keep the likes of Slater, Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu at bay. They'll once again face a tough test tonight as they square off against the Broncos' dominant backs, but there's no doubting the confidence that David Nofoaluma, Corey Thompson, Kevin Naiqama, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak and Esan Marsters will have. Wests Tigers will field the exact same back five as they did against Melbourne, while the Broncos backs will be changed with Jordan Kahu out and Jack Bird in, and it's certainly worth watching if that change affects the attacking potential of both sides on the night.
3. What will Jack Bird show in his first game for Brisbane?
Speaking of Bird, the former Shark will make his return from off-season shoulder surgery tonight — a welcome one for Wayne Bennett's side given the unavailability of Kahu. On his day, Bird is an incredible talent who offers so much in attack and while there's bound to be some early season rust, he'll no doubt be looking to put his best foot forward in his club debut. Brisbane will look to get Bird early ball, and it's up to Marsters in particular to shut that down — something he did very well last week against Curtis Scott and the week before against Latrell Mitchell. Two of the best young centres in the game, the battle between Bird and Marsters shapes as a fascinating one to watch and could lead to plenty of points in attack!
4. Can Wests Tigers end the Broncos' Campbelltown record?
It hasn't been the greatest run for Wests Tigers at Campbelltown of late — losing their last five matches, including all four of their home matches there last season. Coach Ivan Cleary spoke this week about the importance of delivering a good performance for the suburban crowd as they look to keep their strong start to 2018 going, and that will no doubt be in the mind of many as they arrive to the venue later tonight. Yet while Wests Tigers have had a tough run at Campbelltown, remarkably, the same cannot be said for Brisbane who boast an impressive record out there. Having played out a 24-24 draw with Wests Tigers in the club's first ever game back in 2000, the Broncos have gone on to win the following six matches — leaving the hosts without a victory over Brisbane at Campbelltown in history. The record books also show that the matches between these two sides have been quite close, with winnin margins of 2, 10, 2 and 8 in the last four games, meaning we could well be in for another close one again later this evening.
5. Are we on the verge of more club history?
While the club's Campbelltown record against the Broncos is made to be broken tonight, we might also see more history as Wests Tigers look to start the season with three consecutive wins for the first time in history. We've seen plenty of history created from Ivan Cleary's side already over the opening two weeks: ending a run of 11 straight defeats against the Roosters before winning just their second game in Melbourne in history, so it's certainly something that this team is capable of producing. There's also the chance for Wests Tigers to sit on top of the competition ladder after Round 3 dependin on how the Dragons, Warriors, Titans, Knights and Panthers fare in their respective matches — something that the club has never done in the regular season in history. Could we be on the verge of more club history tonight?