Broncos wary of improving Bulldogs in NRL

Will Hopoate has scored 20 tries in 79 NRL games for the Bulldogs since joining in 2016.
Will Hopoate has scored 20 tries in 79 NRL games for the Bulldogs since joining in 2016.

There's no chance Will Hopoate will be catching Brisbane on the hop.

Not after Broncos coach Anthony Seibold identified the Canterbury centre as the man to stop when the Bulldogs visit Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.

Hopoate has been on a tear in recent weeks for coach Dean Pay, whose battling side have shown signs of life with two wins in succession.

In the past three weeks alone, the former NSW State of Origin star has scored a try in each match and averaged a team-high 182 metres on the right edge.

So wary has Seibold been of Hopoate's purple patch of form that he has considered deploying defensive stopper Alex Glenn in the centres.

Youngster Herbie Farnworth is listed to start opposite Hopoate, however Seibold could spring a late change on game-day.

"We thought Herbie did a good job (last week). He's played a bit of centre for Norths (in Queensland Cup)," Seibold told reporters on Wednesday.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on Herbert. We'll just have a look at it (Wednesday) morning and make a final decision."

Seibold described Hopoate's recent form as "outstanding", and, coupled with the recent addition of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, has given the Bulldogs a spark.

"(Hopoate has) probably been, from what I can see, the Bulldogs' most consistent player," Seibold said.

"And Watene-Zelezniak over the last couple of weeks has really added something to the team as well.

"I think Hopoate has been averaging about 182 metres in recent games so he's a real handful. So whoever it is - whether it's Herbie or Alex - they'll have a big job."

The match is teetering on must-win status for a Broncos side that are losing touch with the top eight after winning just one of their past five contests.

They currently sit three points behind eighth-placed Penrith in 14th spot.

Winger Corey Oates is a welcome addition following his rest last week, forcing impressive youngster Xavier Oates back to an extended bench.

The Bulldogs have been hit by injuries to experienced duo Aidan Tolman (ribs) and Sauaso Sue (ACL), and replaced by Ofahiki Ogden and Danny Fualalo.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Brisbane have won six of their past seven matches against Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium, and are gunning for four straight for the first time.

* Brisbane are aiming to avoid extending their winless run at Suncorp Stadium to a fourth game for the first time since 2014.

* Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough will become just the ninth player in club history to reach the 250-game milestone.

Australian Associated Press