The rise of Broncos young forwards
When the Broncos march out onto Suncorp Stadium in Saturday's Anzac Day clash against the Eels they'll do so knowing they have only 95 games of NRL experience on their bench.
For some clubs this this would be an issue and in recent seasons it had been for Brisbane, until Wayne Bennett returned to Red Hill this year.
The super coach has been able to instil confidence in the group of young emerging forwards he inherited from former mentor Anthony Griffin after the issue of Brisbane's inexperienced interchange came to a head following their 36-6 Round 1 loss against South Sydney.
Bennett's solution came in the form of dropping an ill-disciplined and overweight Sam Thaiday back to the bench in an effort to boost both the team's and the 216-game veteran's performance.
"The interchange was a bit of an issue for us," Bennett said at the time following Brisbane's 30-point loss to the Rabbitohs.
"I don’t think [former coach] Anthony [Griffin] in the past used his interchange that much and I can probably see why because he didn’t have the confidence in them."
In Saturday's Parramatta clash, Bennett will rely on a bench containing Mitchell Dodds (61 NRL games), Jarrod Wallace (27 games), Kodi Nikorima (six games) and Francis Molo (one game) to get the job done at various stages of the contest against an opposition bench boasting 559 games of NRL experience.
Bennett has also used developing forwards Jo Ofahengaue, Mitch Garbutt, James Gavet and Aaron Whitchurch – who have only 33 games of experience between them – over the course of the season.
For one of those players, prop Jarrod Wallace, knowing Bennett has faith in his emerging pack of forwards enables the 23-year-old to keep on his toes in a quest to be named in the final 17 each week.
"Those guys pushing for my spot makes me want to be there even more, knowing that they are behind me," Wallace told NRL.com.
"We have a lot of [forward] depth – 'Doddsy' [Mitchell Dodds] has been playing some great football – he's a great defender and putting some big hits on lately.
"You've got Frankie [Molo] coming through who's aggressive, fast and good on his feet [and] we've got big Mitch Garbutt here too, so I've just got to not get ahead of myself and turn up each week and try and play good footy.
"I've got to be proving why I should be coming off the bench and go from there."
Off-season shoulder surgery restricted Wallace's pre-season with the Sawtell Panthers' junior making his first appearance of 2015 against the Sharks in Round 2.
After producing more metres than Cowboys' and Australian Test prop Matt Scott in Round 3, Wallace bagged his maiden NRL try against the Warriors the following weekend and was rewarded with a starting spot for Brisbane's local derby against the Titans in Round 5 due to Adam Blair's calf injury.
Originally named in his customary No.14 jersey, Wallace was promoted to the starting side at Cbus Super Stadium after Bennett decided to keep Thaiday warming the pine for another week.
Wallace had one of his quieter games that night, making only three runs for 27 metres and 23 tackles from 27 minutes of game time.
Although he enjoyed starting up the front of Brisbane's engine room, his performance was overshadowed by rival prop Mitchell Dodds who scored two tries and made 26 more metres in the same amount of playing time.
"It was great – starting up front with Corey Parker and players like that is a dream come true so hopefully I can get a few more opportunities this year. But I'm happy to be coming off the bench at the moment – I'm doing my part for the team which is good," said Wallace, who returns from a one-match ban against the Eels.
The father of two played 17 games in 2014 and has averaged 82 metres and 21 tackles from his five outings so far this season – up 46 metres and 11 tackles compared to last year.
Standing at 189 centimetres and weighing in at 108 kilograms, Brisbane's bench enforcer knows his position within the side is far from secure despite being contracted at the club until the end of 2016.
"I don’t think your spot is ever secure unless you've played 300 games [like] a Darren Lockyer or Corey Parker," he said.
"You've still got to perform week in, week out and show you're eager to be there each week or Wayne's not going to want to pick you.
"If I turn up feeling cocky or arrogant because I've been there a few more times than [the other younger forwards] have you're not going to be there."
Wayne Bennett's message to Wallace has been a simple one – run hard and tackle hard – and like every professional sportsperson – the young Bronco wants to improve his performance on a regular basis.
"I don’t think [my form] has been too bad. I've still got to work with my defence and things like that – I've got to work on my contact and getting my fitness up and all the one-percent things.
"I can only improve which is good and I'll go out this week and give it everything I've got."