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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Top eight hopefuls face off in season-defining clash
The Brisbane Broncos and Penrith Panthers will face off in a contest between two teams vying for a place in the finals on Friday night with the winner set to take a massive step towards securing a place in September.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with an 18-14 win over North Queensland in Townsville, the Brisbane Broncos will be looking for a much-improved performance after committing 14 errors in last Thursday's Queensland derby.
Winning their past three meetings against the Panthers, including posting a half century at Suncorp last season, coach Anthony Seibold will need his side to continue accruing competition points in order to qualify for the finals given for-and-against is set to be of little consequence as a result of the side's draw with the Warriors last month.
Naming veterans Alex Glenn and Matt Gillett on an extended bench in an otherwise unchanged squad, impact hooker James Segeyaro will make his 150th appearance in the NRL off the bench.
Bouncing back into form with a well-earned 26-20 victory over Cronulla at home last Friday, the Penrith Panthers will be out to overcome a dismal record at Suncorp Stadium in a season-defining clash.
Winning just two of 11 visits to Suncorp since 2008, the Panthers have struggled at the home of Queensland Rugby League, most recently copping a humiliating 30-4 defeat at the hands of the Wests Tigers in Magic Round.
Currently sitting in seventh position as the lone team on 22 competition points, the Panthers will go a long way towards confirming a finals finish with victory on Friday night, while remaining in contention to secure a home final should other results fall in their favour.
Having served a one-match ban for tripping, departing playmaker James Maloney returns at five-eighth in place of rookie Matt Burton in the only change from the team that downed the Sharks last week.
Last meeting: Round 19 2018 - Broncos 50 Panthers 18
Who to watch: Facing off against the club where he earned Dally M Hooker of the Year honours five years ago, James Segeyaro will have his sights set on claiming victory in his 150th NRL appearance. Establishing himself as one of the best attacking hookers after bursting onto the scene with North Queensland at the start of the decade, the 28-year-old has struggled to recapture the height of his powers having been consistently relegated to the bench in the wake of his sudden departure from Penrith in 2016. Out of contract at season's end, look for Segeyaro to showcase his talents on Friday night to earn a new deal with a club in need of player boasting experience and the ability to make an immediate impact on the field.
Returning from a one-match ban for what looms as one of the most significant matches of his illustrious NRL career, James Maloney will be out to ensure his time with the Panthers continues well into September. Securing his final playing contract with Catalans after penning a three-year deal last month, the 33-year-old playmaker will be intent on making his presence known by displaying the same leadership that saw New South Wales call upon his services with the series on the line earlier this year. Proving himself to be a decade defining player across stints with five clubs, look for Maloney's experience to come to the fore as Penrith strive to secure four consecutive finals appearances for the first time in history.
The favourite: While both sides have managed six wins apiece from 12 meetings this decade, the Panthers wretched record at Suncorp has the Broncos favoured to come away with the win.
My tip: With James Maloney set to return from suspension, the Panthers should move to within one win of securing a place in the finals. Panthers by 12.
1. Anthony Milford 5. Jamayne Isaako 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Gehamat Shibasaki 2. Corey Oates 6. Darius Boyd 7. Jake Turpin 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Payne Haas 11. David Fifita 12. Tevita Pangai 13. Joe Ofahengaue 14. James Segeyaro 15. Thomas Flegler 17. Patty Carrigan 20. Izaia Perese
1. Dylan Edwards 2. Josh Mansour 18. Dean Whare 4. Brent Naden 5. Brian To'o 6. James Maloney 7. Nathan Cleary 8. James Tamou 9. Mitch Kenny 10. James Fisher-Harris 11. Viliame Kikau 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo 16. Moses Leota 14. Sione Katoa 15. Spencer Leniu 17. Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Referees: Ashley Klein, Chris Sutton; Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Michael Wise; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Galea;