Johnathan Thurston v Ben Hunt
Both playmakers are crucial to their teams’ fortunes, as was so starkly evident in last year’s grand final.
Thurston is back on song after a late-season hamstring injury affected his form, while Hunt looks to have regained the great confidence he had this time last year.
Both halfbacks love to control the tempo of the game, especially when they are in front.
The Broncos and Cowboys have struggled with inconsistency and flat patches in games over the past month and Thurston and Hunt are key to avoiding this.
Whoever wins this head-to-head battle will likely move on to a preliminary final.
Matt Scott v Adam Blair
Blair needs to be Brisbane’s bulwark against the best prop combination in the game in Scott and James Tamou.
Scott is a proven big-game performer and produced one of the all-time finals performances for a prop in the Cowboys’ corresponding game against Cronulla last year.
However doubts persist over just how fit he is as Scott struggles with a back and hand injury.
Blair needs to cut the niggle out of his game and concentrate on making metres.
Darius Boyd v Lachlan Coote
The two fullbacks will rarely meet on the field, but their influence on each side in attack, especially at the ends of sets is so important.
Boyd’s extra man in attack on either side, his ability to straighten the Broncos attack and his silky passing skills make Brisbane very hard to defend against on the goal line.
Coote is a crucial support act to Cowboys halves Thurston and Michael Morgan. He can pop up anywhere in attack and his raking left foot kick often gets them out of trouble.
Kayln Ponga v Jonus Pearson
Two rookies who come into this match on the wing due to injury and suspension. Ponga will move onto the Cowboys flank for Antonio Winterstein who has rib trouble. James Roberts’ suspension means Jonus Pearson gets another chance for the Broncos.
Both players can expect plenty of attention in attack and pressure under the high ball.
This match could make or break either of them.