Broncos' home final in doubt after Penrith and Dragons win
THE Brisbane Broncos' hopes of hosting a home final have taken a battering, with Wayne Bennett's men needing to beat Manly by at least 24 points if they are to start their NRL finals campaign at Suncorp Stadium next weekend.
Penrith's upset of Melbourne and St George Illawarra's gritty 10-point win over Newcastle leaves Brisbane in eighth place ahead of their final-round clash on Sunday.
A win by more than 23 points would ensure they jumped the Dragons into sixth and set up a knockout final against that same team in Brisbane next weekend.
Alternatively, victory by 32 or more would propel them into fifth and have the New Zealand Warriors heading to Brisbane.
A win of less than 23 points would leave the Broncos seventh and facing the Dragons on the road, while a loss would leave them eighth and tasked with a trip to take on fifth-placed Penrith next weekend.
Bennett isn't getting bogged down in the numbers though, with the side's late-season rejuvenation leaving them brimming with confidence.
"What's most important for us is we play well and the rest will look after itself," he said on Saturday.
"The issue is to continue what we've done over the last three weeks ... it's the right time of year to be playing well on a regular basis."
Manly were impressive in their last visit to Suncorp earlier this year but will arrive with the future of coach Trent Barrett still in doubt.
Barrett's public fallout with club management suggests the situation is untenable but Bennett has been around long enough to know how clubs react when their backs are to the wall.
"I'm sure they will (respond well)," he said.
"The best thing they did for us this week is they didn't sack the coach."
Hooker Jake Turpin will go on the bench, with Andrew McCullough (concussion) still nursing the effects of Dylan Napa's nasty head-first tackle last weekend.
A near-capacity crowd is expected in what could also be Sam Thaiday's Brisbane farewell before retiring.
Bennett lavished the former Queensland and Test forward with praise, labelling him a calming influence who was still producing at a similar level to his 2003 debut.
"There's nothing he hasn't achieved, he's done it all," he said.
"He's a very understated sort of bloke, that probably suits him. He knows what he's done."