There are two things Broncos prop Thomas Flegler loves to do more than anything else – talk about bananas and bend the defensive line with a ferocity those that know him best describe as M-A-D.
The strapping 19-year-old, who hails from a family banana farm in Tully in Far North Queensland, will get the chance to do both on Saturday night in Warwick when he lines up in the front row in the trial against Souths-Logan.
On the field the Queensland Maroons under 20s powerhouse will be out to prove he is ready to follow in Payne Haas’s footsteps and play in the NRL as a teenage forward.
Off it he will get the chance to talk all things bananas with Souths-Logan Magpies coach Jon Buchanan, who also has a fascination with the nutritious yellow fruit which is a major driver of the economy in the Tully region which produces more than 90% of Australia's bananas.
"We do talk a bit of footy but I love talking to Tommy about bananas to be honest, which may sound a bit strange, but my grandfather and uncles were all banana farmers," Buchanan, who coached Flegler last year at the Magpies, told NRL.com.
"Particularly where his farm is from up in Tully, they get a bit of rain and Tommy can tell you about how much they have had, how to stop the diseases that can creep in up there and how many bananas his dad cut this week. He’s all over it. Tommy is the ultimate banana bender.
"He is a really intelligent young man but when he gets on the field he is mad. He is M-A-D kind of mad, and I love that about him."
There is nothing mellow yellow about Flegler. He has outstanding speed, late footwork at the line and carries the ball with intensity.
"Tommy has got plenty of aggression, which is what you want from a front-rower,” Buchanan said.
"Last year as an 18-year-old for us it didn’t matter if he was playing against a prop with 150 Intrust Super Cup games and NRL experience behind them, he took it upon himself to get over the top of them.
"He’s had a couple of frustrating years with injury, but he is a very special talent. I just want to see him stay on the park, and if he does that his footy will do the talking."
NRL.com spoke to Flegler in the Maroons Emerging Origin under 20s camp recently where he said he was now fully fit after overcoming two shoulder reconstructions and an ankle injury he suffered on tour with the Junior Kangaroos last year. Following in Haas’s footsteps is his next mission.
"Watching Payne do what he has is an inspiration and a real driver," Flegler said.
"I played a lot of representative footy with him when I was younger, and against him as well, and even though he is my age he is someone to look up to.
"We have got a really good young squad and I am hoping to get a crack at NRL this year. I’ve just got to bide my time."
Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold said "the biggest competition for spots is in our forward pack" and that Flegler and Pat Carrigan, who will start at lock on Saturday night, were putting their hands up to make their NRL debuts this year.
Tommy is a really intelligent young man but when he gets on the field he is mad.Jon Buchanan
"I want to see actions at training and actions in our trial games,” Seibold said.
Buchanan said Flegler was an action man who wanted nothing more than to prove himself worthy of a call-up.
"Last year I started him a bit off the bench for a while because he was coming off a shoulder reco’, then pulled him aside and said 'I’m going to start you this week', and he looked at me and said 'about bloody time'," Buchanan said.
"Tommy is not arrogant, just confident in his own ability. He loves the challenge."