Hodges: Broncos, Cowboys bound to find another gear
TONIGHT we will witness another chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in sport when the Cowboys and Broncos lock horns in Townsville.
The rivalry between these two sides continues to get bigger and stronger every year. In the '90s it was Big Brother v Little Brother, but now both sides are on par.
As a player it was always the game you put a circle around at the start of the year, a game where you knew you would walk off the field absolutely exhausted.
The Cowboys may not be having the season they desired, but you can be certain they'll play this game with the same intensity as a grand final.
And with the Broncos flat last week against the Bulldogs, you can be assured they'll find a couple of extra gears tonight too.
These two sides have brought out the best in each other over the past four or five years and provided some of the most dramatic and entertaining games of those seasons.
Tonight has extra special meaning as well. It's hard to believe, but it will be the final time we see modern-day superstars Jonathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday go head-to-head.
JT has had a wonderful journey and often delivered his best performance against the Broncos - who could forget his match-winning field goal in the 2015 grand final or the golden point try he put on for halves partner Michael Morgan in the 2016 finals series.
Thurston has been a constant thorn in the Brisbane side, but there wouldn't be a player in the Cowboys who the Broncos respect more than JT. The ultimate professional, he's never been the biggest player on the field but he's proven that through hard work and determination you can achieve anything.
The accolades for him speak or themselves, but it's his ability to make those around him play better that makes him a legend of the game.
On the other side of the fence the Broncos will be looking to give Thaiday the victory he deserves in his 300th NRL game.
Sam has always been a unique character off the field and he's one of the toughest players you'll ever meet on it. To play 300 first-grade games is an amazing achievement, but to play 300 first-grade games in the engine room is incredible.
I feel so blessed to have played alongside both men and you can guarantee that when the game is on the line tonight they'll both be leading the way for their respective sides.
For the Cowboys to win, they need to win the battle through the middle. If Matt Scott and Jordan McLean can win the battle through the middle and give Thurston and Jake Clifford some room to move, the Cowboys will be hard to stop.
For the Broncos to win, the equation is simple. They need to start well. Slow out of the blocks last week against the Bulldogs, they were made to pay.
The Broncos need to keep things simple, get the basics right and the rest will flow off the back of that.
Tonight may be the final chapter in the Cowboys v Broncos rivalry for Thurston and Thaiday, but if previous encounters between the two sides are anything to go by it will be a game they will never forget.