Plenty of buzz has been hovering around the young forwards at Brisbane Broncos, none of whom have genuine #KiwiNRL ties other than Payne Haas spending time with Aotearoa Warriors earlier in his youth. Before you go nutty about the Warriors having Haas on their books and then losing him to the Broncos, that felt like like a case of Haas needing to be around family in Auckland for whatever reason and thus that was the most convenient option.
Otherwise, the Broncos are a bit of a lacklustre #KiwiNRL outfit at the moment. Alex Glenn has found a way to do a job for coach Anthony Seibold at centre and Jamayne Isaako is back performing at a high level on the wing after a season interrupted by cancer hitting his whanau. Lacklustre in the sense of lacking the quantity of other NRL teams and lacking the funk of other teams, with two steady performers holding it down. Over the past two seasons the Broncos have bid farewell to Jordan Kahu, Adam Blair and Kodi Nikorima, plus Sam Tagata'ese is still on their roster but hasn't featured this season.
It's been a bit sad to be honest as the Broncos had emerged as a #KiwiNRL powerhouse and their grand final run in 2015 was heavily reliant on their #KiwiNRL lads. Dig a little past the surface appearance and you will find two of the most exciting #KiwiNRL prospects who were snapped up by the Broncos, both of whom have spent much if not all of this season in reserve grade; Rory Ferguson and Jordan Riki.
What is even more notable about these two is that they are from the South Island with Riki hailing from Christchurch and Ferguson from Milton in the deep south. Both were signed by the Broncos after finishing school and were brought across to Brisbane to play Under 20s footy for the Broncos, which then became the Queensland Under 20s competition. Both Riki and Ferguson quickly worked their way through the ranks to ultimately playing consistent Intrust Super Cup footy this season; Riki with Norths Devils and Ferguson for Souths Logan Magpies.
Ferguson has played 25 games of reserve grade this season, operating primarily as a middle forward either starting at lock/prop or coming off the bench. Between roudns 13-22, Ferguson started 10 straight games at prop and played 60+ minutes in seven of those 10 games. Even better, Ferguson played the full 80mins in two games and of those 10 games he played 70+ minutes in five games.
That tells a story about the type of player Ferguson is and he's definitely in the hearty middle forward bucket. Less offloads, post-contact-metres, tackle busts etc and more minutes, tackles and runs. That may not catch the eye or be as alluring as what other players offer, but in the NRL you need balance in your forward pack and there is a fair chance that Ferguson could blossom into the type of player that the Broncos need alongside the power of their big boppers. Even more so if Ferguson progresses on a rookie-level contract, giving the Broncos great value for money.
Given that Ferguson is a pakeha work-horse from the South Island, the easy comparison here is to Simon Mannering. The issue is that I'm not certain about Ferguson's contract situation with the Broncos other than Ferguson playing for the Magpies who are closely aligned with the Broncos and have Fanitesi Niu, Sam Tagata'ese, Patrick Mago and Shaun Fensom in their squad who are all signed to the Broncos.
Named in the Junior Kiwis wider squad last year, Ferguson didn't make the final cut and I believe Ferguson is too old for the JK's this year. As a youngster playing reserve grade, doing the amount of work on the field as Ferguson is, I'm extremely intrigued about how his next six months look as it could emerge that he is signed to Broncos, or perhaps another NRL club may come sniffing around.
Riki has a bit more certainty around his Broncos status as he trained with the Broncos NRL group prior to this season, before going back to Norths Devils who are another club aligned to the Broncos. Starting this season in Hastings Deering Colts (U20s), Riki then went into the Devils top side where he has spent most of this season coming off the bench. The last three weeks have been funky for Riki as he started two games on the wing, before starting last weekend's game as an edge forward.
Coming off the bench for the Junior Kiwis last year, Riki did so alongside Peter Hola who has played a bunch of NRL games late this season with North Queensland Cowboys. Riki was also part of the Aotearoa Under 18 team in 2017 where he played alongside Hola, Hayze Perham (Wariors), Mawene Hiroti (Rabbitohs), Jaxson Paulo (Rabbitohs), Paul Turner (Warriors), Sean Mullany (Warriors), Kelma Tuilagi (Storm), Darius Farmer (Titans), Tyler Slade (Warriors), Joseph Taipari (Eels), Philip Makatoa (Warriors) and Steven Marsters (Dragons - Rabbitohs next year).
This summer is a big off-season for both Riki and Ferguson, both of whom will be keen to make an impression on coach Seibold. They will both need some stars to align as the Broncos have a fair amount of forward depth, which is all of the younger variety and while there is the possibility that both crack a Broncos debut next season, they will need a bit of help from the universe. Riki is all but locked in for a summer with the Broncos, while there is that intrigue around what Ferguson's summer could look like.
While talking about Queensland, I'll finish by highlight even more young forwards coming through at North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans. The Cowboys have given Hola an opportunity and while just averaged 19mins per game, Hola's work running the footy is already notable as he's averaging 10m/run (4.8 runs, 47m). Hola is a Marist Saints junior in Auckland and is eligible for Tonga, so I'd suspect that being around Jason Taumalolo could influence Hola to go down the Tongan route where he'll join other notable young #KiwiNRL tokos in Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans) and Sitili Tupouniua (Roosters - also Marist junior).
Emry Pere is also with the Cowboys and started at prop for the Junior Kiwis last year. The Taniwharau (Huntly) junior has played 22 games of reserve grade this season, to go with the 24 games he played last season despite still being Under 20s eligible. Pere has started 20 games at prop for Mackay Cutters and Pere has played 50+ minutes in five of his last six games.
Gold Coast Titans haven't done a great job of keeping their young #KiwiNRL talent as they let Jaxson Paulo go to the Rabbitohs and after Jesse Arthars made his NRL debut this year, he signed with the Broncos for next year. The Titans have however locked down edge forward Darius Farmer for two more years, which is a massive nod of approval for Farmer after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier this year.
Farmer has played three games for Burleigh Bears this season and will be out to make a major impression on new coach Justin Holbrook over the summer. As of right now, Taumalolo, Hola, Fotuaika and Kevin Proctor are the only #KiwiNRL forwards playing for Queensland clubs. There is however, an enticing wave of youngsters coming through who are all of a high pedigree and could be #KiwiNRL factors in the next 12-18 months.
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Peace and love 27.