Young Bronco Wallace happy at home
For many aspiring rugby league players their shot at the big time can often result in some heavy sacrifices along the way in order to fulfil a boyhood dream.
Moving to a different location – often interstate – and leaving behind friends and family are just some of the costs associated with chasing an elusive contract with an NRL club.
The choice to leave everything you've ever known behind can sometimes see some of the game's brightest young talent slip through the cracks and not achieve their true potential.
There are others, like Sydney-based players, who are lucky enough snare a contract with one of the nine local NRL clubs and stay close to their childhood homes during the initial stage of their career.
However, the story is different north of the border with only three Queensland-based teams covering around 45,000 registered juniors and 15,000 registered seniors in 2013 alone.
Considering such a vast array of potential talent is limited to three teams, the chances of inking a contract close to home are scarce.
Some players are lucky enough to crack the NRL scene without having to make a lifestyle sacrifice and young Broncos prop Jarrod Wallace is one of those fortunate ones.
Born on the Gold Coast and living there for 13 years before moving to Coffs Harbour, Wallace lived in the New South Wales north coast town for six years before moving back home permanently.
Originally courted by the Titans while still attending high school, the Sawtell Panthers' junior never cracked first grade for his hometown team and once off-contract was quickly snaffled up by the Broncos.
"I had a school-based contract with the Titans and I was lucky enough to come up when I was 16 and play (NSW under-18 competition) SG Ball and then (NYC) under-20s the year after," Wallace told NRL.com.
"I was just off-contract [at the Titans] and [former Broncos recruitment officer] Paul Bunn signed me and looked after me. I didn’t want to move anywhere away from the family like Sydney at the time; I didn't think I was ready to do that.
"So I was lucky enough to be signed by a club like the Broncos which I jumped at."
There were other NRL teams looking at the blue-eyed, baby-faced forward, but home is where the heart is for Wallace and he's happy to have never moved too far from it.
"There were a couple of other opportunities to sign with other clubs but I just wasn’t ready to move too far away from the family. I was young and didn't want to be one of those guys that got lost in the system," said Wallace, who stands an imposing 189 centimetres and weighs in at 108 kilograms.
"My family is still at the Gold Coast which is only 45 minutes away and when I came up here and I moved in with a couple that took me into their home and looked after me.
"I think where I am now comes down to coming to this club and staying close to my family."
Now into his third season of NRL with 19 games behind him, the 23-year-old was off contract at the end of this season but recently signed a two-year extension to keep him at the club until at least the end of 2016.
It was that peace of mind Wallace was seeking as he looks to further establish himself in Brisbane's side on a consistent basis.
"Having that stability and knowing where I'm going to be is great. Everyone wants to know where they'll be in the next couple of years and I'm lucky just to be one of them," he said.
"I'd also love to be starting next year and playing the whole 26 rounds."
If Wallace is to achieve his goal of more game-time next season he must impress incoming coach Wayne Bennett and the best possible audition he can have is against Bennett's Knights on Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Usually named in the No. 17 or No.18 jumper but often missing out on final selection come game day, Wallace is likely to remain in the final 17 this weekend after being named in jersey 14 to take on the Knights. It's a fitting reward for the fringe first-grader who hasn't featured for Brisbane since their 28-22 Round 19 win over the Warriors.
What prompted outgoing Broncos coach Anthony Griffin to promote Wallace from Intrust Super Cup duties was the astonishing 232 metres, 22 tackles and try he produced for Norths Devils in their 36-0 drubbing of the Sunshine Coast Falcons last weekend.
"I haven't really thought about [impressing Bennett]. I'd want perform well even if he wasn't there and we weren't playing Newcastle," he said.
"I want to be there to do it for the team because obviously it's an important game for us, but it's not really about impressing him.
"I've never met him or had anything to do with him. He was here before I was here and I've only ever been under 'Hook' (Griffin).
"I got my start with him (Griffin) and he's been a great guy to me, a great coach and a great mentor. It would be great to send him off with a win this week and hopefully a few more in the weeks to come."
Despite still showing his loyalty to Griffin, Wallace says he is looking forward to his next two seasons under the tutelage of the seven-time premiership coach.
"At the end of the day it's Wayne Bennett, you can't say anything bad about him – he's a good guy and all the boys think it will be good," he said.
"But it's all happening next year and we're more focused about this year than anything."