Broncos face Warriors' fortress without stars
Will the Warriors finally shrug off their bogey tonight?
The Broncos, the team that tormented the Auckland club for five years in their formative years and continued to linger in the background for many more after, has in recent years been backpedalling.
Mt Smart has become all but a fortress for the Warriors against the Brisbane side.
The Warriors have won three of the past four encounters and the Broncos can only think wistfully about the last time they won at Mt Smart, in 2009.
The form, though, sits with the Broncos, who have won four on the trot. The Warriors lost their last encounter with a woeful, error-ridden final 20 minutes against the Rabbitohs. But the Broncos, on the team list anyway, are weakened without their Origin stars.
Only Ben Hunt's name is down in ink to back up from Origin. It would, however, be highly unusual if at least one of Matt Gillett, Justin Hodges and Sam Thaiday did not show up tonight.
And, even if they don't, the Warriors will hardly be able to rest on their laurels against the likes of Ben Barba.
Warriors wing Manu Vatuvei said the team was aware of the threat fullback Barba posed.
"You expect everything from him, and we've got to make sure we shut him down."
Sam Tomkins should similarly be causing headaches for the Broncos.
It is likely Vatuvei will be peppered with a number of high balls, something the team practised during the week.
The Warriors will lament the loss of Ben Matulino to injury but should be heartened by the return of Ben Henry, who has battled with a knee injury the whole season.
Henry said he is currently sleeping with a device attached to his knee that compresses and cools the injury intermittently throughout the night.
He said he wanted to bring energy to the team and hoped they shied away from the sorts of errors that wrecked the game against the Rabbitohs - one he watched from the sideline.
"We just went away from our plan. It was working for us for 60 minutes, and as soon as we get away from our defensive structures, our offensive structures, we capitulate. We are trying to rectify those mistakes and try to stick to our processes. I believe we can."
The team has worked a lot under fatigue in their training sessions, and Henry believed that was starting to show through in the games.
"Every play you do in a game, you don't do it fresh, you are always under constant pressure, your head is spinning. It's getting us used to that so we are more game-ready."
Henry said every Broncos player represented a threat.
"They are really good athletes. There is no-one that is massive but they have a crack and that's what they are known for."
Win this and the Warriors head into the top eight, somewhere they haven't been since 2012. Lose it and the resurgence under coach Andrew McFadden starts to look more than a little shaky.
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