Broncos confident of causing upset
DESPITE having beaten only strugglers the New Zealand Warriors and Penrith in the past eight weeks, the Broncos will go into Saturday night's sudden-death elimination final against the Cowboys in Townsville confident of causing an upset.
Speaking at yesterday's captain's call in Sydney, Brisbane skipper Sam Thaiday said he didn't believe the team's form was as bad as the record showed.
"We struggled there for a little while but we were never playing terrible football. We've got a lot of confidence going into this finals series," he said.
With the NRL finals format having changed this season, Thaiday said he was disappointed the two Queensland sides in the play-offs had drawn each other in week one and only the winner would survive.
For his part, Thurston said the Cowboys would go into the match in a much better position than last season when they went out in the first week of the finals, beaten by eventual premiers Manly.
"We're coming in pretty healthy which is good. We would have liked to have finished a bit higher, but with the new finals system we get a home final against Big Brother," Thurston said.
The new system will see the top four teams play each other this weekend, with the winners earning a week off and a berth in the preliminary finals.
The bottom four teams will also square off, with the two losers dropping out and the winners facing away matches against the two losers from the qualifying finals in week two.
The first qualifying final between minor premiers Canterbury and Manly on Friday night will pit Des Hasler's Bulldogs against the team he coached to last year's title.
Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis paid tribute to the work that had already been done by the club's assistant coaches including Jim Dymock, but said Hasler's work ethic had been the biggest factor in the team's improvement.
"It's been infectious, not only for the players, but for everyone in the organisation," Ennis said.
While most of the captains at yesterday's promotion were happy to focus on reasons why their teams could win their respective matches, Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said his side would need to improve significantly on Sunday's home loss to the Cowboys if it was to beat the Raiders in Canberra on Sunday afternoon.
"We just didn't seem to have a lot of energy (against the Cowboys). Our forwards were dominated by the Cowboys, even without Matt Scott, so we'll need to turn that around against Canberra who have got a very big forward pack," Gallen said. "Our kicking game wasn't as good as it could have been either - the halves have got to take some responsibility there."
The Raiders will be the only side without their captain this weekend, with Terry Campese still recovering from a knee reconstruction.
The star five-eighth said missing the finals would be even harder than the home-and-away matches, but said he was hopeful his team could reverse the result of its last finals appearance, a home ground loss to the Sharks in 2010.
"When we hold the ball and complete our sets we can score some points," Campese said. "The Sharks beat us a couple of years ago in the semi-finals so hopefully we can get one back on them."