Twelve years and 238 games of experience separate Ezra Mam and Adam Reynolds but the new Broncos duo have emerged as one of the competition's strongest attacking threats in 2023.
Experienced and established halves pairings have long dominated the NRL but a new look ‘master and apprentice’ dynamic is trending across several teams this season, and it’s working.
The Broncos, Cowboys, Dragons, Titans, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles and Roosters have all fielded halves combination with more than a decade in age difference and this weekend’s clashes are set to put some of the best rookie and veteran duos to the test.
Broncos coach Kevin Walters was clearly onto something when he signed Reynolds on a three-year deal, with the 32-year-old now forming a lethal combination with 20-year-old Mam, who has been with the Brisbane club since he was 13.
Having taken down the defending premier Panthers, Cowboys and Dragons this season, the undefeated Broncos are firing under their new six and seven, leading the competition in tackle breaks and run metres heading into Round 4.
Reynolds was pulling the strings in Brisbane
“I think it’s combinations, Adam is the older part of the relationship and he’s got all the experience and Ezra’s got the energy,” Walters told NRL.com.
“Ezra doesn’t have the experience of Adam, but they’re sharing their knowledge.
“If we can continue to play the way we are, Adam will be at the forefront of everything that we are doing and Ezra, not far behind him.”
Look beyond the Brisbane powerhouse and you can see the new halves dynamic is a trend that's being adopted across the wider NRL competition.
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans has played 249 more games and is 13 years older than his new five-eighth Josh Schuster but was singing the 21-year-old praises after he set up three tries in Manly’s 34-30 win over Parramatta last week.
Who else but Turbo
“His natural ability is pretty special. The way he can pass the ball and his chip and chase five metres out from their try line, it's all there for him,” Cherry-Evans said in the post-match press conference.
“Now it's just about building consistency in the game so hopefully as an older player I can help him with that.
“But the natural ability is always going to be there for him and it’s great to watch when it all comes off.”
Come Friday night and the pair are set to feature in the ultimate playmaker showdown when they face a halves duo boasting a similar dynamic in veteran Cody Walker (33) and young gun Lachie Ilias (22).
Cowboys v Titans: Round 4
Meanwhile, in North Queensland, the clashes of 'big brother little brother' continue when the Cowboys and Titans meet on Saturday night in Townsville.
Kieran Foran, 32, joined the Gold Coast this year as the oldest playmaker to don the Titans colours since Mat Rogers but so far it looks to be paying dividends.
Defeating the Storm at home for the first time since 2013, Justin Holbrook’s decision to drop Toby Sexton at halfback and sign a 262-game veteran to play alongside 22-year-old Tanah Boyd has the Titans attack clicking into a new gear in 2023.
The Titans like to get their points in style
“Experience, it’s definitely that for young halves. They come through the lower grades and they can out on a clinic, they’re so much better than everyone else,” Holbrook told the media last week.
“Then they get to the NRL and everybody defends well, front rowers pick them up and get a hold of them and Tanah’s been no different, it’s taken him a couple of years to find his feet.
“Since Kieran’s joined us, it’s just given Tanah more confidence having that experienced head on the other side of the field.
"That is what every young half needs.”