Friday’s NRL match with the second game for Round 1 is between Canterbury Bulldogs and Brisbane Broncos with the opening kick to commence at 8.05pm. The game is to be played at ANZ Stadium with the favourite for the match being Canterbury Bulldogs. View our NRL live scores, odds and results for the game between Canterbury Bulldogs and Brisbane Broncos.
WHERE AND WHEN: ANZ Stadium, Friday, March 7 – 8.05pm
All odds are subject to change. Odds listed are correct at the time of the latest update.
After a poor 2013 season that saw them finish 12th on the ladder and miss the finals for the second time in the past four years the Broncos and their Coach Anthony Griffin, will be under close scrutiny from the opening round in 2014.
Griffin has made several key changes in the attempt to halt his team’s steady decline in form over the past two seasons including announcing Corey Parker and Justin Hodges as co-captains, taking over from Sam Thaiday.
He is also going with a new and younger halves combination in Ben Hunt (halfback) and former fullback, Josh Hoffman (five-eighth) – for round 1 at least, in the hope of improving the Bronco’s attack which last year was very uncharacteristically, the 4th worse in the competition.
Replacing Hoffman’s at fullback will be Ben Barba, the former Bulldog who after a tumultuous 2013 that saw him miss several weeks of the season due to off-field drama, request an early release from the club and leave the Bulldogs unceremoniously.
Taking on his old club first here adds to the anticipation of the first round clash.
Due to a number of injuries and suspensions, the Canterbury Bulldogs had a disastrous starts to 2013 winning only one of the first six games and having to spend the rest of the season playing catch-up.
Again this year the Bulldogs will be missing a few to injury – forwards Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood along with back, Kristan Inu – but have enough regulars in the starting line-up to cover for their absences.
The Bulldogs prepared for their first game of the season with a win over Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium were they fielded a full strength outfit and with new recruit Chase Stanley (transferred from St. George) already looking at home in the centres.
The Bulldogs have won three of the past five encounters between the two clubs – all when playing at home and with the confidence and direction of a regular halves pairing, compared to the as debutante combination of the Broncos, the Bulldogs start deserved favourites for this game.
Sam Perrett, Mitch Brown, Josh Morris, Chase Stanley, Corey Thompson, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, Aiden Tolman, Michael Ennis (c), James Graham, Frank Pritchard (c), Tony Williams, Dale Finucane
Interchange: Josh Jackson, Pat O’Hanlon, Tim Browne, David Klemmer, Moses Mbye (one to be omitted)
Ben Barba, Daniel Vidot, Jack Reed, Dale Copley, Lachlan Maranta, Josh Hoffman, Ben Hunt, Josh McGuire, Andrew McCullough, Corey Parker (c), Alex Glenn , Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett
Interchange: Ben Hannant, Martin Kennedy, Todd Lowrie, Jarrod Wallace, David Hala (one to be omitted)
Simply meeting his new Brisbane teammates made Ben Barba nervous.
But the Broncos are backing a more settled Barba to prosper amid an anticipated hot reception from former Bulldogs colleagues and their passionate fans in the NRL clash at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
A glimpse of what Barba can expect following his off-season switch was provided 12 months ago when Canterbury vented their spleen at another former golden boy, Sonny Bill Williams.
The Broncos aren’t predicting fullback Barba will match Williams’ two-try match-winning performance that day but they’re quietly confident the ex-Dally M Medallist can help them crash Canterbury’s opening round party.
“Tomorrow night no doubt he will get a pretty hostile reception. Once he gets through that he will be fine,” Griffin said.
“But whether we are playing the Bulldogs or not, it is not an issue.
“It probably makes for good theatre but we are trying to win a footy game.”
Griffin revealed Barba appeared nothing like the confident performer who led the Bulldogs to the 2012 NRL grand final when he first arrived at Red Hill.
Keen to bounce back from dramas on and off the field, Barba cut a coy figure when introduced at training.
“He was probably a bit nervous,” Griffin said. “But as the months have gone on and he got to know the guys he has become more relaxed.
“He has been good for the team just in the way he has conducted himself and his attitude.
“But in the end it will depend on how he plays his footy.”
Barba now is a world away from the man who missed the opening rounds of 2013 due to personal issues.
Ankle dramas then sabotaged his season before Barba was granted a Bulldogs release to be closer to his family after his estranged wife relocated from Sydney to Brisbane.
Barba has been given every chance to reclaim his stunning 2012 form this season as Brisbane look to bounce back from 2013′s 12th placing – their worst season finish.
He has been handed a roaming role in attack, running off a forward pack led by co-captain Corey Parker, who had a league-high 68 offloads last season.
The Bulldogs will also be out to exorcise last year’s demons.
As Barba succumbed to the pressure of being the NRL’s latest pin-up boy, Canterbury started last year 1-5, sparking questions about team harmony.
They were eventually knocked out in the first week of finals 22-6 by Newcastle.
Canterbury – who have not lost at home to Brisbane since 2008 – will battle without Krisnan Inu (broken jaw), Sam Kasiano (foot), Greg Eastwood (foot), Drury Low (broken hand) and Tim Lafai (broken hand).