Benji’s bet­ter op­tion: Locky

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - PETER BADEL and TRAVIS MEYN

BRON­COS leg­end Dar­ren Lock­yer has called for Kodi Niko­rima to be axed to the bench, declar­ing Benji Mar­shall as the half­back to out­wit Storm mae­stro Cooper Cronk.

The Bron­cos must defy a decade of Mel­bourne dom­i­nance at AAMI Park on Fri­day night if they are to trump the Storm and qual­ify for their sec­ond grand fi­nal in three years.

Mel­bourne have held a 10year stran­gle­hold over the Bron­cos, win­ning 19 of the past 23 clashes be­tween the NRL heavy­weights fol­low­ing Bris­bane’s 2006 grand fi­nal boilover.

The Bron­cos are ex­pected to be buoyed by the re­turn of cap­tain Dar­ius Boyd ( ham­string) at full­back for the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal show­down.

Boyd’s re­turn means Ben­nett will likely send ei­ther Niko­rima, who played full­back in last Fri­day’s win against the Pan­thers, or Mar­shall to the bench for the sud­den- death fi­nal.

The Bron­cos have won 11 of the 12 matches Niko­rima has started at half­back this sea­son, how­ever 267- game vet­eran Mar­shall is a bet­ter op­tion in the No. 7 ac­cord­ing to Lock­yer.

“I reckon you leave Benji at half­back and put Kodi back to the bench,” the 2006 premier­ship- win­ning five- eighth said.

“They need to train all week and have Kodi as a back- up full­back bench.

“I think Benji de­serves to stay there. He made his tack­les and didn’t have any er­rors with the footy ( against Pen­rith).

“His kick­ing game was solid, a few kicks could have been bet­ter, but his ex­pe­ri­ence brings com­po­sure, he isn’t over­play­ing his hand and that’s the key.”

Mar­shall, 32, is 80 min­utes away from a fairy­tale grand fi­nal.

His ca­reer was at a cross­roads last year when Ben­nett is­sued him a $ 100,000 life­line for 2017.

The 2005 Wests Tigers grand fi­nal hero has come back to life at Red Hill and Lock­yer’s en­dorse­ment has given Ben­nett some­thing to con­sider at the se­lec­tion ta­ble.

Re­gard­less of who starts at half­back, the Bron­cos must pro­duce a bet­ter at­tack­ing per­for­mance if they are to chal­lenge the dom­i­nant Storm.

Mel­bourne are a clin­i­cal out­fit with Test and Ma­roons No. 7 Cronk call­ing the shots and the Bron­cos can­not af­ford to give him too many op­por­tu­ni­ties with the ball.

“We’re go­ing to need the same en­ergy de­fen­sively but we need to be bet­ter with our at­tack,” hooker Ben Hunt said.

Boyd’s re­turn will give the Bron­cos an­other at­tack­ing di­men­sion and bring co­he­sion to their de­fen­sive struc­tures. “De­fen­sively and in at­tack he helps us so much,” Hunt said. for Dar­ius on the

KEY PLAYER: Dar­ren Lock­yer wants Benji Mar­shall ( kept at half­back against the Storm.

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