The faith and the pitfalls: Lockyer on challenge facing young forwards

The young and the restless sums up where the 13th-placed Brisbane Broncos are at right now, on and off the field, after one win from five games.

Firstly, to the young.

On Sunday in Canberra the Broncos will field five forwards aged 19 to 21 with just 54 games of NRL experience between them when Payne Haas, David Fifita, Thomas Flegler, Pat Carrigan and Jaydn Su'A take the field.

And then there's the restless - the Broncos fans who are impatient for another title after waiting 13 years for a seventh premiership.

Broncos legend Darren Lockyer, also a board member on the club's retention and recruitment committee, told NRL.com why they have faith in this quintet of young forwards and explained the challenges they will face in the weeks and months ahead.

"Everyone can see there is upside for the future but with young kids you get inconsistencies. They are not seasoned pros yet. That will take time, but most people watching can see that there is talent there," Lockyer told NRL.com.

"Internally we are totally fine with where they are at right now and where they are heading. I think most people out there watching the Broncos can see that, but they are also probably getting a little bit impatient purely on the back of our last premiership being in 2006."

The Brisbane Broncos.
The Brisbane Broncos. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

The challenge

It is due to that title drought and the fact the Broncos are the most successful team of the past 30 years that the patience the club will show with the young brigade is counterbalanced by the expectation on them. That is where new coach Anthony Seibold's role is so vital.

"Being the Broncos coach, handling pressure is a critical thing you have to do and he probably didn't envisage it to be on so early in the piece," Lockyer said.

"How he handles it will affect how these young guys handle it. I think he is aware of that and he knows he has a good young squad there and it is going to take a bit of time to get them going, but at the same time he knows they are capable of winning.

"They should have beaten the Dragons and the Tigers, but they didn't. They have to learn from that.

"At the same time, while they are under a bit of pressure they have got to hold their nerve. That is the coaching staff's job, and also the senior players' job who have been in these positions before. They need to mentor these young fellas through it."

The mentors

When retired 300-gamers Corey Parker and Sam Thaiday won the 2006 premiership they had Brad Thorn, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva to teach them the ropes.

While the Broncos of today don't have as many big guns on the books, Lockyer said the veterans still had a massive role to play in leading the way for the young bucks.

"It is good to have a bit of youth and experience and I guess the experienced guys there now are Alex Glenn and Matt Gillett. Matt Lodge is not that old but he has got leadership qualities, so their role is to lead, mentor and nurture these kids coming through," Lockyer said.

"Not so much about how to play the game but more around their attitude and approach to their football.

"When Shane Webcke, Brad Thorn and Tonie Carroll came through [in the 1990s] they had guys like Glenn Lazarus, Andrew Gee and Peter Ryan to guide them.

"All the good players of that era that I played with had mentors when they first started out, and that still happens today."

The talent

Lockyer, along with Broncos head of football Peter Nolan, have wrapped up Flegler, Su'A and Fifita until the end of 2020, Carrigan until 2022, and Haas is on the books through to 2024.

Haas, 19, impressed in his first starting game against Wests Tigers where he ran for 167 metres and made 45 tackles in 64 action packed minutes.

"Payne is a bit of a machine. He is a big man who gets through a mountain of work and his fitness levels are enormous," Lockyer said.

"He missed out on four weeks and played all those minutes against the Tigers and, while I know he was disappointed to miss that tackle [on Michael Chee Kam] at the end, he has just got a big motor.

"The other thing he does well is that he is very good at controlling the ruck in defence. He is not afraid to be the third or fourth guy in to take control of the tackle so that the defensive line can be set. Cameron Smith is probably the best in the game at doing that but Payne, at his age, is very effective at it as well."

Fellow 19-year-old Fifita will start at lock against the Raiders after a strong all-round game against the Wests Tigers where he kicked for himself to nearly score and set up a four-pointer for Kodi Nikorima with a nice offload.

"David is an athlete with a high impact when he plays on the edge and he is getting a bit of time in the middle at the moment which will be good for his mental toughness to push through minutes in that role," Lockyer said.

"Right edge is probably his preferred position. He can hit a hole, but give him the ball and he can create something with his footwork and his strength."

Carrigan is a 21-year-old physiotherapy student and former school captain at Gregory Terrace.

"Pat is a good, honest player – that Dale Finucane or Kevin Campion type of player who you can give a jersey to and know won't let you down," Lockyer said.

"Most premiership coaches would say you need one of those in your pack."

Su'A, also 21, had coffee in the off-season with former Broncos enforcer Ben Te'o to get some inspiration and advice, and is a player he wants to emulate.

"Jaydn probably doesn't have the size on him yet that Te'o did but he is an aggressive player," Lockyer said.

"He broke his ankle last year and has taken a while to get back in his groove. He hasn't played a lot of minutes in first grade this year but once he gets his confidence back in his ankle and gets some decent games under his belt we'll see the best of him."

Flegler, 19, has impressed Lockyer with his "late footwork at the line and with his speed".

"Again, he has got a high work rate and a good attitude," Lockyer said.

"Sometimes you can have talented kids who don't have the attitude to go with it but what we are seeing with those five guys is that they have both."

Match: Raiders v Broncos

Round 6 -

Full Time
Raiders

Home Team

Raiders

Scored 26 points
Broncos

Away Team

Broncos

Scored 22 points

Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • Foxtel
  • LIVE PASS

The future

The challenge for the Broncos in the future in ensuring the five forwards stay together long-term will be keeping the wolves from the door.

As they earn representative jerseys the strain on the club's salary cap will only increase.

"Peter Nolan has done a good job," Lockyer said.

"Back in the day the Broncos had pretty much Queensland to go out and find their talent but in the modern day you have got three NRL clubs in Queensland, the Storm with [Intrust Super Cup] feeder clubs in Queensland and a lot of Sydney clubs coming up here looking for talent.

"As they evolve and start to play more footy I'd say representative jerseys will be somewhere down the track as well."