Broncos primed for flag favourite

BRISBANE has the perfect stage to launch a run at the finals by playing competition leader Manly at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.

The six-time premier managed to cling on to eighth spot on the ladder despite losing 30-8 to Melbourne at the weekend.

The next three or four weeks, starting with the clash against Manly will determine the club's fate this season.

Manly's defence against the Warriors last weekend was outstanding, and sent a clear warning to all rivals that the much talked about upheaval among players caught up in contract disputes with club officials was having no on-field impact.

Brisbane smacked Manly 36-10 at Suncorp Stadium in round 12 when the Sea Eagles were without star No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans and other key members of the side, something Brisbane's 100-game man Matt Gillett reminded reporters about that yesterday when they raised the lopsided scoreboard.

"They were missing a few that day and obviously Daly (Cherry-Evans) wasn't playing," said Gillett, outstanding in Brisbane's 26-point win.

"Foran also was hurt early so they are going to be a very different side on Friday night down there at Brookie."

Gillett spent three Origin camps with Cherry-Evans earlier this year and was hugely impressed by the Manly star's easygoing nature.

"He's a pretty laid-back and level-headed bloke, and it comes through in the way he plays his footy," the former Bribie Island Warrigals junior said.

The Broncos have been their own worst enemy with slow starts in the past two games, coming from 12 points down to beat the Warriors 28-12, before being unable to reel in Melbourne.

"Our start wasn't good (against Melbourne), but we got back into the game just before half-time," said Gillett, who made his debut for Australia earlier this year against New Zealand.

"Cameron Smith and Copper Cronk controlled the second half and we couldn't get any momentum because of their kicking game.

"It's an attitude thing - we talk about getting a good start every week. We have to come out better against Manly because they have such a great defensive side."

Brisbane's overall record against Manly isn't great, with just four wins from the last 16 clashes, but they do have a 50% record against the premiership favourite at Brookvale with two wins from four trips there since 2006.