Our man Thaiday the key if Broncos are to win
THIS will read like a tough call and, essentially, it is a tough call.
But if the Broncos are to beat the Roosters in the NRL blockbuster in Sydney tomorrow night, the onus is on the broad shoulders on one man - Sam Thaiday.
The Broncos' powerhouse, still unsigned for next season, has to do exactly what he did at Suncorp Stadium back in round six. That night he was 'Brutal Sam'.
For those unacquainted with that clash, chunky Sam smashed Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves almost into submission in the 22-18 golden-point win to the Broncos. His defence was nothing short of sensational.
Leaders of their respective packs, Thaiday and JWH took it upon themselves to stamp their authority - not just on the match, but on each other.
They grappled, wrestled and traded barbs each time they came together and the result was an absorbing conflict that thrilled the 36,000 crowd and the horde of TV viewers.
In his best game for an age, Thaiday had 61 minutes on the field for 14 runs, 147 metres gained and 37 mostly brutal tackles.
But the chief ingredient in stopping Waerea-Hargreaves that night was Thaiday's effective low-tackling style, something quite foreign in a game where the practice of grabbing, holding and wrestling has become the norm.
Sam, that night, was simply awesome.
The Roosters have assembled nine straight wins coming into the rematch, and Waerea-Hargreaves has been unstoppable. Brutal, bullying and belligerent are apt descriptions of his incredible form.
In simple terms, for the Broncos to win, JWH must be stopped before he starts, and Big Sam has already shown he is the man to do just that.
For the past three months, the Broncos have led the competition. But many - me included - doubt they can go all the way. Tomorrow night, against the premiership favourites, will be a true test of where they stand and just how good they are.
It is also a litmus test for the apathetic Sydney rugby league support base, and in particular, Roosters fans.
Despite being 2013 premiers and minor premiers last year in a purple patch under coach Trent Robinson, the Roosters attract pitiful crowd support. Their average 2015 home crowd at the fan-friendly Allianz Stadium is a meagre 14,378, and that includes 35,110 at the Anzac Day clash with the Dragons.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have an outstanding record at the ground best known as the Sydney Football Stadium, and in particular against the Roosters. They have scored 14 wins from 21 clashes at the venue, including 10 from the past 13. And it is the ground where the Broncos won three of their first four grand finals.
Batten down the hatches - tomorrow's clash should be another cracker.