Cory Paix has found his voice as a starting half for the Redcliffe Dolphins and he’s also earned himself a new Brisbane Broncos deal until the end of 2022 at the same time.
The Queensland Under 20 half will get to showcase the development in his game at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night against New South Wales, and he credits that to his elevation to a starting Intrust Super Cup player and the outstanding examples he has right in front of him every day at the Broncos.
The Dolphins had a slow start to the year but have rediscovered their mojo in recent weeks. Paix has thrived through the ups and the downs and is now gaining confidence each week as he calls the shots.
"That is when you learn most about your footy, in the tough situations. That is when you get to develop your game," Paix said.
"For myself as halfback at Redcliffe, Moggy [coach Adam Mogg] has given me the reins to steer the team around the park.
"The last three months I have really found a voice in doing that and directing the team. What has been comforting for me is that the players believe in what I am trying to accomplish and what I am trying to say. That has been the biggest thing for me, finding a voice and taking ownership of the side."
Paix has famously modelled his game on Sydney Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk. A thinking footballer, he is a keen student of the game who takes the best qualities of the players he admires and adds them to his own game.
Paix has put on a couple of kilograms since the pre-season and is now around the 87kg mark. He appears physically stronger and that will only put him in good stead if he gets an NRL call-up soon on the back of strong displays for Redcliffe.
"It is definitely a step up from the 18s. For me it has been about being accountable for everything you do and all your actions," Paix said.
"I like to take a step back and see what other people are doing and then add it into my game, and take that with me when I run out for the Redcliffe Dolphins.
"I look at Cronk when he is playing and at Broncos training I look to the likes of Andrew McCullough and Anthony Milford. When you talk about leadership you also look at Gillo [Matt Gillett] and Matt Lodge, who is stepping up. I see myself as a leader, being a halfback."
That leadership at a young age has been identified by the Broncos.
Coach Anthony Seibold is not afraid to invest in the young players that have been developed at the club and Paix is right in that category. It is why the Broncos coach recently called Paix in for a meeting that ultimately led to his contract being upgraded and extended until the end of 2022 in the top 30 squad.
"We had a review about how things were going and how I had progressed well through the ranks and pre-season. I always have the mindset that I want to keep getting better and Seibs could see that I was trying to do that," Paix said.
"Seibs said that he wanted me at the club long term and that was comforting for me to know, coming from the first grade coach. We didn’t go to the market at all and went with that [offer] two weeks later."
Paix has been named in the Broncos reserves list in recent weeks and knows he is close to an NRL call-up. In the interim, he is prepared to bide his time and learn from good examples at the club.
"I have got that sense that I am really close at the moment. For me it is about going to training and doing the little things that I can to be in the 17. Once I get that shot, good luck to someone that wants to take my position because I won’t want to hand it over," Paix said.
"I will keep plugging away at training and trying to better myself and hopefully my chance will come soon.
“Ideally I would like to be playing NRL now but I have just got to keep going back go the Intrust Super Cup and try and better my game.
"I have been a part of the Broncos since I was 12 and came through the EPD program. Now I find myself part of the first grade squad.
"Anthony Milford is a perfect example. He is a professional. He has played at the top level. It is just unreal. Sometimes I sit back at training and think 'how good is this'. I am in a great position where I am."
Paix is well aware that a big performance in representative games for Queensland can lead to bigger and better things.
Brisbane winger Xavier Coates is a perfect example. After starring for the Queensland Under 18 team, Coates won a Test debut for PNG and will make his Broncos NRL debut on Sunday.
"With Coatesy making his Test debut and about to make his NRL debut, that is awesome,” Paix said.
"The 20s game is another level up. Some of the guys have played NRL and some have played Intrust Super Cup.
"I am going to have a clear mindset in this game and really nail it. I am going to do my best to steer the team around. It is a big game for me. A lot can come out of this if I do perform well. There are a few key injuries at the club at the moment so if I can put my hand up and have a really good performance then anything can happen."
Match: NSW U20s v QLD U20s
Round 1 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney