by Phil Dillon, News Regional
THE return of skipper Darius Boyd and a huge defensive performance will be the keys to the Broncos defeating the Melbourne Storm in Friday night's preliminary final, says Broncos and Queensland great Wally Lewis.
Lewis, now a commentator for Channel Nine, said the minor-premier Storm was deserved favourite but said Wayne Bennett's Broncos had the players and the know-how to upset the home side at AAMI Park and reach another grand final.
"The Broncos are certainly capable of knocking over the Storm," Lewis said.
"It's no great surprise to hear that Melbourne are very firm favourites for the game.
"Playing on their home track with their home-town fans certainly will start them off in a pretty good manner.
"But Brisbane cannot be underestimated in this game."
Boyd missed last week's qualifying final victory over the Panthers with a hamstring problem but will be back to face the Storm.
Lewis said Boyd had been outstanding throughout the campaign and the Broncos would be glad to have the captain and custodian back in their ranks, especially in defence.
"They have got Darius Boyd back on board and they are certainly a much better team when he's been behind them," said Lewis, who played 46 times for the Broncos between 1988 and 1990.
"His direction as captain this year has been fantastic.
"Melbourne Storm play a very similar game week in, week out.
"The only times they get beaten is by teams that present a defensive plan that far outweighs Melbourne's attack.
"That doesn't happen all that often but when you have got the opportunity to be able to do it, you need to take it.
"In big-game football, nerves also play a very strong part in the outcome and Brisbane have been there plenty of times before. So have Melbourne for that matter, but Brisbane are probably going to be a lot more confident than they were last week and it will ensure this one is going to be a bell-ringer of a game.
"There's plenty of big-match players on show as well. It could just be the bounce of the ball in the end."
Lewis said that while the Broncos had to wary of the big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, there was plenty more talent in the Storm side.
"Every time you play against them they (Smith, Cronk and Slater) are the standout features of Melbourne's game," he said.
"So much of their game plan revolves around them and we have become used to seeing that stock-standard play of Smith giving the ball to Cronk, who angles across the ruck and turns it back inside to Slater searching for tired defensive players.
"We'll see that over and over again.
"But there are also some extraordinary players that Craig Bellamy has developed - guys that weren't really wanted by any other clubs yet they have been given a pretty simple job in an interesting game plan for Melbourne.
"It really has been of enormous value to them.
"We have now got used to seeing those players become very good and who aren't rated as highly as they should be.
"When they can outplay the likes of Slater, Smith and Cronk, you know that they have reached new heights in their game."