Rugby League

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Broncos wary of fullback threat

THE first thing Brisbane need to do against Melbourne tonight is avoid being carved up by a fullback - again.

Last week, Canterbury's Ben Barba did a job on the Broncos, figuring prominently with two tries and two try-saving tackles.

Tonight at Suncorp Stadium, it's Melbourne fullback Billy Slater who gets the chance to shine, and if last year's Dally M player of the year cuts loose, the Broncos could be in big trouble again.

Slater has not had his best year. He scored plenty of tries in the first few rounds, but levelled off as the season wore on and then had a setback when he hurt his knee playing for Queensland in State of Origin II.

But a Slater who is a bit below top form is still better than most fullbacks in the NRL, and there is always a chance he will burst back into top gear. He has had three games back from the injury.

The Broncos are certainly preparing to have to deal with a Slater in peak form.

''There are so many great fullbacks in the game, and it's all about minimising their impact,'' Brisbane forward Ben Te'o said yesterday. ''Ben Barba probably got the boys a bit tired at stages, and we've got to learn from that and minimise our mistakes.''

But, while Slater represents a big danger, Te'o said he regarded Cameron Smith as the major threat to Brisbane. ''[Smith] would have to be the most important player for them,'' Te'o said. ''But we've got to focus on the whole team, not just a couple of players. They are up there with the Bulldogs as the benchmark in this competition.''