Wynnum forwards asked to step up
They are highly-regarded young forwards with dreams of playing in the NRL and Wynnum Manly coach Jon Buchanan will challenge them to prove it in order to keep their season alive against a red-hot Sunshine Coast team on Sunday.
With just two rounds remaining the Seagulls must win both of their remaining clashes to be any hope of finishing in the top six. After disposing of the Central Capras last weekend the Falcons sit in fifth position but with just three points between them and eighth-placed Wynnum.
Moving across to Souths Logan next year after a decade of involvement at Wynnum Manly Buchanan knows that one more loss would effectively spell the end of his tenure but will turn to a group of youngsters this week.
Aaron Rockley, Magnus Stromquist, Alex Barr, Stephen Coombe, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard and Salesi Funaki are currently or have in the past been part of NRL systems yet are still waiting for their crack at the big time.
They have an excellent chance to prove they have what it takes against Sunshine Coast who boast forwards with extensive NRL experience in Felise Kaufusi, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Mark Nicholls, not to mention the likes of Ryan Morgan, Richie Kennar and Curtis Scott out wide.
Despite losing veteran Tim Natusch in the opening minutes with an ankle injury last week Wynnum's young forward pack paved the way for a commanding 42-18 win over Easts and Buchanan will again challenge them to display their full potential.
"You just challenge them a bit," Buchanan said.
"There are quite a few guys in our team who are aspiring to get there and you just tell them that they're up against quality NRL players and you never know who might be watching.
"It's an opportunity to show people that they're up to playing against that quality player.
"Solomona on the bench is probably the best young forward in the NRL so that's the luxury he's got I suppose with good quality second-tier players coming back."
The player who will have to shoulder much of the responsibility given the absence of Natusch is prop Aaron Rockley.
The 2015 Rookie of the Year had a quiet start to 2016 following off-season surgery but roared back into form last week against Easts and Buchanan believes he is the player with the greatest potential to play NRL in the near future.
"He's the one. He's 21, he's a big kid and he's an old-style front-rower," Buchanan said.
"He doesn't have a lot of leg speed but he's tough, he carts the ball forward and he loves the contact. He loves nothing more than ripping in in defence.
"He's not going to win you games with skill or anything like that but he'll do his job really well in the middle.
"He's got the most upside of all those young guys at the moment.
"He just hasn't had a real good run of footy this year and probably a few home truths as well between me and him and we got the best out of him. I just hope it's not all too late.
"If he can get some consistent footy without injuries then in the middle of next year I think he'll turn into a really good footballer."
Buchanan himself hasn't given up hope of going out on a good note as his time at Wynnum winds to a halt.
The Seagulls haven't missed the finals in his three years as head coach and he has a lofty ambition for how he wants his tenure to finish.
"I want to win a comp," he said.
"We've put ourselves in the position we're in but if we can get through the next two weeks then it's a new competition after that.
"It's a little four-week period where you've got to get up and see where it will take you.
"You won't hear me criticise the club at all. I probably wouldn't have gotten my next gig without them giving me an opportunity in the first place.
"I've spent nearly 10 years there all up and it's played a massive part in where I've got to at the moment."