Jarrod Wallace was moving house last weekend, with his good mate Jai Arrow serving as his removalist labourer, when it hit him how much it “really sucks” that he won’t be on the field when his former fellow Brisbane Broncos young gun makes his Gold Coast Titans debut on Sunday.
Wallace and Arrow have followed identical paths – Gold Coast juniors snared by big-brother Brisbane in their mid-teens, who each made their NRL debuts at 19 and craved to establish themselves as run-on props after living in the shadows of representative stars Sam Thaiday, Adam Blair, Corey Parker and Josh McGuire.
With Wallace to continue the three-match ban for a shoulder charge from last season over the opening two weeks of the 2018 Telstra Premiership, Arrow goes into the opening round clash without his close friend.
He will shoulder plenty of responsibility as a member of the NRL’s youngest and least experienced up-front rotation when the monster Canberra Raiders pack visit Cbus Super Stadium.
After going from a club bench player to an Origin star in his first few months at the Titans last year, Wallace has no doubt 22-year-old Arrow is ready to replicate his feats.
Wallace played just 10 of his 73 games as a Bronco from 2012-16 as a starting prop, while Arrow started in just three of his 24 in 2016-17.
Arrow and Leilani Latu (35 of his 49 games have been off the bench) will take on the role of matching up against giant Raiders pair Junior Paulo and Shannon Boyd from kick-off.
Twenty-one-year-old’s Max King and Morgan Boyle (32 NRL games between them) will come off the bench. Skipper Ryan James is also likely to switch from the edge to the middle for some part of the match.
“It really sucks that I can’t be there when he debuts for the club, but I know he will go out and do the same job for the team whether I’m there or not,” Wallace said.
“Last Friday and Saturday he helped me move house and we were sitting in the truck outside our new place talking footy and I said ‘to tell you the truth, the biggest disappointment is not being there to lace up the boots with you in your debut game’.
“He was in the same predicament as me – we both loved the Broncs and wanted to stay but we wanted more game time. That’s what we want to be doing week-in, week-out.
“My biggest thing was to get away from the Broncos and make my own name; I was always behind Sammy [Sam Thaiday] and Kozzer [Corey Parker] which I loved in many ways and it was a great learning curve. But I wanted to get out of that shadow of the Broncos and be my own man and find my own name in the NRL.
“I saw it as a make or break decision. I’d either come down here and fizzle out or become known for my own identity. It proved the best thing I could have done.
“I think Jai is in the same spot now, I’m excited to see it happen.”
Titans coach Garth Brennan has no concerns that Arrow goes into his club debut without any pre-season trial experience because of a rib injury suffered in training, and shares Wallace’s confidence in the Burleigh Bears junior.
In fact, he hinted a starting spot was his to keep, or lose, whether as prop or lock, even when Wallace returns.
”I didn’t want to risk him in a trial even though he could have played against the Warriors, but he has trained the house down in the off-season, been one of our standouts really,” Brennan said.
”He is a quality player and will be in the squad somewhere naturally, but I think it is important that those who do get an opportunity take it with both hands in his absence.”