Hopes build for drought-breaker
Queensland have never won an Under 20s Origin game against their NSW counterparts, but this year looms as their best chance yet.
The up and coming Maroons are set to boast one of their strongest line-ups on record when they face the young Blues at ANZ Stadium on July 13, featuring a stack of talent headlined by Jaydn Su'A, 18.
Su'A has been a revelation for the Broncos this year, averaging just over 72 minutes a match and in the process becoming the youngest forward to start a match for Brisbane in the history of the club.
‘We were helping these boys before anyone knew them or cared about them’
Brisbane Holden Cup coach Craig Hodges said Su'A's fitness has been a standout feature of the second-rower since the two started working together in 2015.
"He's done a great job to play such long minutes," Hodges said.
"I think most guys that have come up through the Broncos' system have been able to handle big minutes in first grade.
"He's done a fantastic job in that aspect and now the challenge is for him to continue that."
Su'A will be one of four young Broncos to play in Queensland's Under 20s side, with teammates Will Brimson, Gehamat Shibasaki and George Fai all set to start in Maroon with him.
Hodges said he couldn't help but feel proud of all the young men progressing through Brisbane's rugby league system.
"I'm enormously proud. That's what the point of our job is. We want to develop players who go through to first grade and also have an opportunity to play in these representative matches," he said.
"You sit down and you're like a proud parent when you watch them because you've spent so much time with these boys and worked with them before anyone else.
"We were helping these boys before anyone knew them or cared about them. Then when you see them fulfil their dreams on the big stage and have some success, it makes you very proud.
"All of the staff do a wonderful job and take pride in these lads."
Maroons galore … and a Blue
It caps off a wonderful year of representative success for Brisbane's Holden Cup side, with nine of the squad participating in the Under-18s Origin match held before Game II of State of Origin last month.
NSW won that match 26-0 but the result doesn't concern Hodges, with the experienced coach just glad his young players were able to receive some representative experience.
"We had eight in the Queensland Under 18s side and one in the NSW Under-18s side. It just shows how young the team is," he said.
"Last year we only had two in the Under 18s squad and that was Jaydn and Keegan Hipgrave.
"Now over half our team is in that Under 18 bracket and that's why I think we will get better as we get closer to the back end of the year.
"These kids will start to realise they can play first grade or play in representative sides. Their leadership will grow."