Parker: No love lost in battle of the 'brothers'
IT'S THE game that every Queensland rugby league fan pencils in on their calendar at the start of each season - Broncos v Cowboys.
The game used to be billed as Big Brother v Little Brother with the Broncos running rough shot over the Cowboys in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but that all changed in 2004.
I remember travelling to Townsville to take on the Cowboys in a knock-out semi-final. It was Gorden Tallis' last game and Dairy Farmer's Stadium, as it was known back then, was packed to the rafters.
On that night the Cowboys not only downed the Broncos but they lit a fuse to a local derby that has only intensified with countless last-minute field goals, golden-point victories and the 2015 NRL Grand Final.
Friday night's instalment of the Broncos v Cowboys rivalry may be without Johnathan Thurston this year, but it's still shaping up as an absolute cracker.
What we've learned
It's going to take time for the Broncos to get used to Anthony Seibold's style of play.
There was plenty of effort from the Broncos last week, but at times they were very frustrating. They had plenty of options to score points in that game, but didn't take them.
There was plenty written about the Broncos in the off-season and there was plenty of hype around them heading into Round 1, but they got a massive reality check against the Storm last week and it's now up to them to respond this weekend.
Last season was the end of the JT era with Johnathan Thurston hanging up his boots, but last Saturday night we saw the birth of a new JT era with Jason Taumalolo smashing running records for fun.
Josh McGuire provided the Cowboys with plenty of stability in the middle third of the field and Michael Morgan was also outstanding.
There were a lot of eyes on Morgan last week and he had the added pressure of being the club's new captain, but he took it all in his stride.
The key men
Darius Boyd wouldn't have been happy with his personal performance last week or with his team's performance.
Darius is the Broncos skipper and is the most experience player in the Broncos side, the younger players will be looking to him for leadership and guidance when things get tough this year and how he responds will go a long way to determining what type of season the Broncos have.
There's no doubt that Bronco-turned-Cowboy Josh McGuire will run with a little extra purpose this weekend against his former side.
The Broncos are a very talented pack, but they're a very inexperienced pack and that won't be lost on a player like McGuire.
He'll look to take the battle up to the Broncos pack and take them apart through the middle. If he can win the forward battle for his team, the Cowboys will go a long way to winning the game.
Where it will be won
For either team it's in the middle.
The Cowboys have one of the best packs in the competition. Jordan McLean, Matt Scott, Gavin Cooper, Jason Taumalolo and Josh McGuire are all representative forwards and don't - and won't - take a backwards step.
The Broncos were smashed through the middle by the Storm in Round 1 and if they don't win the battle through the middle tomorrow night they'll find themselves in a world of hurt.
The Broncos forwards need to hunt as a pack and provide the steel and platform for the likes of Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorema to play off.
Like the Broncos, for the Cowboys creative players such as Michael Morgan and Jake Granville to weave their magic they need their forwards to lay the platform.
Taumalolo was a one-man wrecking machine last week, but he'll need his mates to go with him this week if they're to repeat their win against the Dragons in Round 1.
If the Cowboys forward pack can get on the front foot, Morgan and Granville have the ability to cut the Broncos to shreds.
This one is really is a toss of the coin.
The Cowboys were outstanding in Round 1 and showed that they'll be a top four threat again this year. Taumalolo was unstoppable and Morgan showed that he's overcome the injuries that plagued him in 2018.
The Broncos showed plenty of effort and grit last weekend, but will be extremely disappointed with the result and will come out breathing fire at home.
I'm tipping the Broncos to bounce back at home and win the Queensland derby by six.
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