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He was a member of one of the earliest incarnations of the 'Baby Broncos' in 2003 but now David Stagg has been asked to guide the latest generation into the top grade ahead of Brisbane's clash with Newcastle on Monday night.

A former member of the Knights under-20s system, Joe Boyce is the only Bronco making his debut on Monday night as the equal competition leaders look to maintain their lofty standing minus their six Origin representatives.

It is the only game of the Origin period where the Broncos won't have access to their representative stars but coach Wayne Bennett has still been able to name a team consisting of six internationals and plenty of first grade experience.

In 2002 a Brisbane team consisting of the likes of Nick Parfitt, Steve Irwin, Robert Tanielu, Mitchell Coorey, Elia Tuqiri and Steve Lacaze knocked off the Wests Tigers 28-14 at Campbelltown and were quickly coined the 'Baby Broncos'.

Twelve months later and with names such as Lockyer, Tallis, Webcke, Civoniceva, Carroll and Carlaw missing from the team sheet, a couple of Bronco debutants in Stagg and Sam Thaiday ran into a Bulldogs team intent on putting the babies in their corner.

"I was named on the bench and ended up starting in the centres. It was against funnily enough the Bulldogs around this time, July 2003. We were on the receiving end that night 40 points to 4," Stagg recalled with unerring accuracy.

"It had come off the year before where the so-called original baby Broncos came out and beat the Wests Tigers. There was a fair bit of hype around the baby Broncos situation and we caught a pretty hot Bulldogs side at that time as well.

"Obviously we're missing six players and we acknowledge that but at the same time we know it will be a challenge down there at Newcastle on Monday night."


Stagg's recall to the Broncos starting team comes after playing just three games for Wynnum-Manly in the Intrust Super Cup after shoulder surgery and 11 months since his last appearance in the NRL.

Due to turn 32 in October and in the final year of a three-year deal at Brisbane, Stagg is realistic enough to know that every game he plays in the top grade could be his last and is relishing the chance to pull on the Broncos jersey again.

"I'm enjoying this week for what it is. It feels like forever I guess and the last couple of years have been injury-riddled and that's a part of the game," said Stagg, who underwent both ankle and shoulder surgery last year.

"I'm certainly not getting any younger so I'll enjoy it for what it is and no doubt it's been frustrating with injuries. There were times probably earlier on the season where I had a couple of setbacks and my main priority and focus was just to get back and play some footy and enjoy being in that team environment again which I'm doing at the moment.

"I'm surprised to be playing this week but I'm certainly healthy and will enjoy every minute.

"It's something that I've realised the older I've gotten and the injuries I've had the last couple of years, you never know when your last game will be so you've just got to enjoy it for what it is."

As for the 21-year-old making his debut in almost identical circumstances to Stagg 12 years ago, the veteran of 204 first grade games said young Joe Boyce will always remember his NRL debut for the rest of his life.

"There's not a lot of him but what he lacks in size he is certainly very aggressive for his size. He can put on a bit of hit too," said Stagg of Boyce, who has been named on the bench.

"From all reports he's been going really well at Souths Logan and obviously he's been given the chance to play this week. I know he's got a few family and friends going to the game on Monday night so I'm sure he's very excited about it.

"You always remember your first game and it will probably mean even more to him given he was in the system there at Newcastle for a couple of years before that."

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