Battle of Brisbane, Dolphins vs Brisbane Broncos preview, Wayne Bennett press conference, Kevin Walters, team news


متابعة: الاخبارية سبورت

Cooper Cronk has one fear for Kevin Walters on Friday night.

But it seems, at least based on Walters’ comments throughout the week, that there’s no need to worry. After all, he did learn from the best — the master of manipulation.

Walters knew full well what was coming after Brisbane’s 40-18 win over the Dragons last Saturday, how inevitably the post-game press conference would turn to the topic of his old mentor.

So, when the first question was raised about Friday’s ‘Battle of Brisbane’, Walters refused to give it much thought.

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“That’s for next week,” he said, smiling.

“We are still in this week.”

But as for next week, for rugby league’s newest rivalry and that ‘Battle of Brisbane’, Walters again did his best Wayne Bennett impression and played it down.

“We are not rivals of the Dolphins,” he said, not too dissimilar to Wayne Bennett’s refusal to get drawn into questions about Felise Kaufusi’s suspension or his Broncos exit this week.

“We are the Broncos. That is our club. That is who we are, and that’s where our mindset is,” Walters added.

“We are the Broncos,” he repeated again, in case that wasn’t clear enough already.

And even when attending Wednesday’s media event, the kind that is usually reserved for launching grand finals or State of Origin games, Walters again offered very little.

Wayne is inside the head of the Broncos | 01:44

“To be honest, not really,” he said when asked if he had noticed the increased buzz in the lead-up to the sold-out game.

“My role at the club is to coach the boys. I go from my house to training and back to my house. But I understand there’s a lot of news around about this week’s game and it’s great for the game. We’re very privileged and excited to be part of the occasion.

“There’s always that, not just this week but every week when you’re the Broncos. You’re a big club, we’re a big organisation and there’s a good buzz around the city from a Broncos point of view from the way we started the season.”

These Broncos have swagger. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

That buzz though has taken on a life of its own this week, with Ezra Mam and Reece Walsh declaring Suncorp Stadium their house ahead of the inaugural ‘Battle of Brisbane’.

Young and brash, they know this is more than just another game. This is about history as much as it is about the future.

The bringing together of two old-school coaches and birth of a new-age rivalry. The latest chapter in a 40-year relationship that included five premierships.

“We’re still good friends, we’ve been through a lot together,” Walters said earlier this week.

“I’ve known Wayne for nearly 40 years — I was doing the math the other night. It’s a long time. I remember the day he approached me, I was 16 turning 17… it’s amazing the career he’s had.

“I was very fortunate to be coached by him and I’ve worked with him as well on his staff.”

But now Walters is his own coach with his own ambitions — and that includes taking this team, with its perfect blend of youth and experience, all the way to the premiership.

‘Our House’ celebrations aimed at Phins! | 00:58

Brisbane has made the perfect start towards doing just that this year, defeating two premiership contenders in Penrith and North Queensland before disposing of the Dragons.

But this week presents a new challenge, perhaps the “biggest test” of Walters’ coaching career as Cronk put it — and that’s where that previously mentioned warning comes in.

“I don’t want to over-exaggerate this, but it’s almost the biggest test of Kevvie’s coaching career,” Cronk said on ‘The Matty Johns Podcast’ earlier this week.

“Because on paper, player-for-player, strength-for-strength, the Broncos are set. They have way more power, way more X-factor, skill through the roof — they should get it done.

“But one thing that cannot be crossed over this week for the Broncos this week is too much emotion and Kevvie’s greatest strength — and weakness — could be too much emotion, because he does it really well.”

Can Kevin Walters handle the occasion? Photo Steve PohlnerSource: News Corp Australia

And already this year, Walters has done well to find the right balance. But in this, potentially the biggest week of the 55-year-old’s coaching career, he needs to be even more tactical with it.

“If he goes too hard on the, ‘We are the Broncos. This is our town. We are the big dogs, we don’t let anyone in’, and all of a sudden they don’t get an even share of statistics — the game, possession, ball, errors, missed tackles — that brings the Dolphins into play,” Cronk added.

“Because we’ve seen what they’ve been able to do in the first three games. They drag people down, hold people down and when the opposition makes an error the Dolphins attack.”

Like they did in the opening round against the Roosters, scoring three tries in the space of 10 minutes. Or like Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow did against Canberra, slicing through for the game-winning try in the team’s first win at Redcliffe.

And like they did last week against Newcastle, when the result was up in the air until a quickfire double from Jamayne Isaako.

4 Tries, 7 Mins! Broncos scoring frenzy | 01:18

“That’s the strength of the Dolphins,” added Matty Johns.

“They are acutely aware of how they need to play and what they need to do to win. They haven’t got an identity crisis where they think they’re a certain kind of team.

“They know exactly who they are — high-ball retention, they make the most of every possession they get, they’re not frivolous with the football and to double down on that is their style, how they play.

“They play patient but they drill through the middle. You see when nothing is on, Sean O’Sullivan just picks a player up on the inside. The opposition middles don’t breathe. They are just put under pressure the whole time. They just bit by bit grind the opposition down.

“I have no doubt part of Wayne’s plan is just to say, ‘Boys, let’s play a style where with 10 minutes to go we’re in the contest’, and in all three games the opposition has fell apart in the last 10 minutes and they’ve come over the top.”

It’s why Cronk warned the Broncos against going for the jugular too soon.

The Dolphins are tough to crack. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I would be going punch for punch if I was the Broncos,” he said.

“Yes they play a little bit more expansive and they should back themselves but I like the Patrick Carrigan and Payne Haas are in the meat of the Broncos’ forward pack because they can absorb a lot of pressure and play long minutes.

“That is their trump card in this game. Those two guys on the field doing what they do for long minutes will repel the Dolphins for me.”

Repelling the Dolphins though has proven an impossible task already for three teams. And even with Felise Kaufusi suspended and young playmaker Isaiya Katoa in doubt for Friday’s game, you would be foolish to count out a Bennett-coached team.

In fact, this is probably right where Bennett wants them. Already cast aside as wooden spoon contenders, now undefeated and yet still considered outsiders — a fairytale that has to end.

But the Dolphins aren’t the only ones daring to dream. Walters and the Broncos too have dreams of a premiership; of rediscovering those now fading glory days — the same ones that always lingered in the background before Anthony Seibold’s exit from Red Hill.

Milford to replace injured Katoa? | 03:42

“You would’ve thought at the end of 2018, the Broncos were where they were and Seibold was where he was in his coaching career, it looked like a good fit,” Cronk said.

“But ultimately that presence and shadow of Wayne played an important part.”

On Friday night, Walters has a chance to step out of that shadow and this Broncos team has the chance to claim its own piece of history in the path towards something special.

The same goes for the Dolphins, not that this ‘little brother’ — at least in its current form — has been living in the shadow of its ‘bigger brother’ for that long anyway.

But they too have something to prove, as do Jamayne Isaako, Brenko Lee, Tesi Niu, Sean O’Sullivan, Kodi Nikorima and potentially even Anthony Milford — all with a chance to get one up on their former side.

Intersecting storylines, rivalries and shots at redemption that set up what already shapes as the most intriguing game of the season to date.

A game where there will be two winners — the obvious one and, more importantly, rugby league itself.



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