The youthful Brisbane Broncos forwards that are firing the club’s late season finals charge are a tribute to the learning curve that is the Intrust Super Cup.
All of them have been well developed and nurtured at the Broncos over a variety of time frames, but they did not just appear out of nowhere as if dropped off at Red Hill by a stork from the sky.
It was interesting to hear from giant prop Payne Haas, still just 19, last week about how he valued the fact that he was made to “earn my stripes” last year by former coach Wayne Bennett in the Intrust Super Cup.
Haas credits that experience as a vital one, where he played on a regular basis for Wynnum Manly against men until being given an NRL debut in round eight.
Some players are ahead of the curve when it comes to their development. Haas is one of those, but he is smart enough to realise that playing with the Seagulls gave him a vital experience to prepare him for the big time.
David Fifita, also 19, is the classic example of a pathway to the top through the systems in place underneath the NRL. It was the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup last year for the Souths Logan Magpies, then Intrust Super Cup and finally NRL.
Last year Fifita said it was the pathway taken by Haas that had inspired him to perform for the Magpies so that he too could achieve his dream.
David Fifita 2018 highlights
Haas and Fifita would not have been given that hard edged induction had they been playing in the former under 20 competition.
The Intrust Super Cup, where players formerly in NRL systems such as Nat Neale, Luke Page and Eddy Pettybourne are playing, is a far more challenging proving ground.
Thomas Flegler, also 19, proved that too when he played with the Souths Logan Magpies last year. The Tully product had to wait until round one this year to get his NRL debut, but it came on the back of stellar performances last season.
“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,” Souths Logan coach Jon Buchanan said.
The newest Broncos debutant in the forward pack, Patrick Carrigan, toiled away with Wynnum Manly last year with great success.
He had to wait until round five this season to play for Brisbane but spent four games for the Seagulls in the lead up, where he started all his matches at lock and averaged 128 running metres and 28 tackles.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold gave Carrigan his debut against the Wests Tigers in round five in what would have been a massive boost to the 21-year-old’s confidence, despite the result on the night.
When an NRL coach is prepared to do that ahead of more experienced players in the top 30, when the Broncos were in an early season slump, it says a lot about the player that he has shown that faith in.
In the past few weeks we are seeing why Seibold had that confidence in Carrigan, who is now starting to bend the line at the NRL level in the same way he did in the Intrust Super Cup.
It is often the case that forwards take longer than backs to mature and to find their feet at the top level.
The Broncos quartet mentioned above are all rare talents and that they are all on the scene at once augers well for the Broncos' future.
That they all got the opportunity to cut their teeth in the best second tier competition in Australia has also played a significant role in where they are currently situated in what promises to be long and successful careers.