Herman Ese'ese cements starting spot
Prop Herman Ese'ese has been the surprise packet of the Brisbane Broncos' 2017 season, forcing his way into the starting line-up with superb form and an outstanding work ethic that gave coach Wayne Bennett no choice but to promote him.
It's a position he is now set to stay in for the long run with Bennett giving Ese'ese the 'thumbs up' for his recent efforts in the starting pack.
Don't be fooled by the No.16 on Ese'ese's back, with jersey sizing forcing the Broncos to name their up-and-coming forward on the bench each week.
It's been a regular occurrence since he first started in Round 6, running for 115m and making 23 tackles in Brisbane's huge 32-8 win over the Sydney Roosters.
An hour before kick-off fans, journalists and the opposition alike all receive the news that Ese'ese will be starting, with teammate and No.8 Korbin Sims coming off the bench.
At first it was a surprise, but now it is just common knowledge that the Samoan enforcer will be taking his place in the starting 13.
The man himself told NRL.com that he was initially surprised by the promotion, but kind words from Bennett took away that surprise and filled him with confidence in his own ability.
"It's a huge step. I didn't think it would come this quickly but I've been going well to start the season," Ese'ese said of his starting role.
"The more games I get in the starting line-up the more confident I get. Wayne pointed that out. He gave me a thumbs up on how I'm going.
"I'm taking it game by game and just focusing on how I play my game. My defence is the thing I've worked on the most during pre-season and I think that's improved a lot since last year."
Ese'ese played eight games for the Broncos in 2016, sitting on the fringe of first grade for the majority of the year.
It took a mammoth pre-season heading into the 2017 season for the 22-year-old to force his way into the starting side and this is something another young Brisbane forward looks up to.
George Fai is in line to make his NRL debut on Saturday night, being named in the No.17 jersey for the Broncos' clash with the Manly Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium.
Fai was full of praise for Ese'ese, labelling him his inspiration and biggest influence at the club.
"Player-wise (my inspiration) would have to be Herman Ese'ese. He's a guy who was here last year and wasn't really getting a crack in first grade and was in and out," Fai said.
"Just to see how he's developed from where he was last year to where he is now is massive. He's been a massive influence for me."
Go back one more year to 2015 and it can be seen just how far Ese'ese has come in his development as both a footballer and a person.
After playing one NRL match for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2015, Ese'ese was stood down from the club for drink driving and then released from the final year of his contract.
Picked up by the Broncos in 2016 after playing for Intrust Super Cup side Souths Logan, Ese'ese said his decision to move to Brisbane is the best choice he has made during his rugby league career.
"I don’t know where I'd be without the Broncos," he said.
"They reached out to me a couple of years back and Wayne has helped me a lot. The coaching staff and the club have been awesome to me. Even Paul White has been really helpful.
"I'm just really grateful that I'm here and that I'm enjoying my time here."