No more 'Baby Broncos'
It's the common catch phrase associated with the Brisbane Broncos once State of Origin season rolls around, but for prop Jarrod Wallace the 'Baby Broncos' tag is not only an motivation for his teammates but becoming somewhat deceptive for opposing clubs.
Plenty will consider Brisbane's 31-18 win over Newcastle a shock considering the vast amount of stars they were missing through Origin duty, though Wallace – who has chalked up 32 NRL games to date – said the club had the depth to do much more than make up the numbers.
Considering only five Broncos – Francis Molo, Joe Ofahengaue, debutant Joe Boyce, Kodi Nikorima and late inclusion Aaron Whitchurch – went into the match with fewer than 20 NRL games to their name, Wallace said Brisbane proved they had the talent to cover the loss of any big names.
"We have some great talent coming through and it just shows the belief throughout the club and in the players coming through. It's only going to help if we get struck by injuries," Wallace told NRL.com.
"A bloke like Joe Boyce had a great game in his debut and others like Aaron Whitchurch get confidence to do a job for us later on in the year and they probably won't be as nervous as they would have been previously. [The Baby Broncos tag] inspires us more than anything. It makes us want to win.
"When they say 'Baby Broncos' they kind of use it as an excuse. When we lose six of our big boys, like we did for this one, everyone externally says 'oh if they lose then there are no worries'. But we want to go out and win more than anything. These wins almost feel better than when we have a full team."
Another positive for the club was the presence of calm and collected coach Wayne Bennett as well as veterans Daniel Vidot and David Stagg who back into the fold to face the Knights.
"Wayne settles us. Losing all of the people we have had you could probably go on the back foot a bit but he calms us down," Wallace said.
"Others like Staggy bring so much to this team too. He's comfortable in the NRL because he's played so many games and he really fitted in well.
"Then there are others like Benny Hunt and Anthony Milford taking us forward which makes it as if we're not missing as much as it's made out to be."
Bennett himself made it clear there was more to the Broncos' first-grade team than just the 17 usual players who run out every week.
While Brisbane sit pretty atop the Telstra Premiership ladder thanks to the likes of Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and their four other Queensland representatives, even without them the mastercoach's lesser-known men proved they are willing and able to get the job done.
"We've got a club, we just haven't got the team and that's what was proven [against Newcastle]. We'll use plenty of boys at other stages this year so it just gives everybody confidence about what we're doing and how the system is working for us," Bennett said after his side's victory.
"They didn't expect to lose. That's not in their DNA, these fellas. My previous experience with all this is from the time you get four players-plus missing, you become vulnerable.
"In my mind it made the victory even better the fact that we had so many players out. I'm not living in paradise, but the end result is we can only manage what we got. We didn't look over our shoulders. We're building a system, we're building a club. It's not about the individual; it's about a whole team of men."