Broncos to unleash teen sensation for NRL debut
Baby Bronco Tesi Niu is poised for the most daunting baptism of his career with the teen sensation in line to make his NRL debut in Thursday night's blockbuster against the Roosters at Suncorp Stadium.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold is considering blooding Niu as injuries and suspensions decimate the Broncos squad ahead of their showdown with the two-time premiers.
Seibold has lost three edge back-rowers in David Fifita (knee), Tevita Pangai Jr (suspension) and skipper Alex Glenn (calf), while centre Kotoni Staggs will accept a one-match ban for his high shot on Eels pivot Dylan Brown.
That opens the door for excitement machine Niu, who is set to be deployed in a super-sub role off the bench at 18 years and 298 days in the ultimate litmus test against the NRL's premiership kings.
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Niu, rated Brisbane's finest fullback talent since Darren Lockyer, is no stranger to being catapulted onto centre stage. Last year, the quick-stepping young gun was called up to make a shock Test debut for Tonga, starring in a 14-6 boilover of Great Britain.
Seibold will name his 21-man Broncos squad on Tuesday, but is leaning towards handing Niu his first-grade debut, confident the Queensland under-18s whiz-kid can be Brisbane's X-factor off interchange.
"I know Tesi is still only 18, but he is ready for an opportunity," Seibold said.
"The next two young guys I'm looking at for their NRL debut, if they continue their attitude at training, is Tesi and Cory Paix.
"They are right there ready to go in my eyes.
"Tesi is right up there with the best athletes I've seen. His evasion, strength and power is impressive and he is a very grounded young man."
The Courier-Mail understands Jesse Arthars will be shifted from wing to replace Staggs at right centre.
British flyer Herbie Farnworth, Brisbane's bench utility in the opening three rounds, will step-up for Arthars after training on the right wing yesterday.
Glenn's back-row spot on the left edge will be taken by rookie forward Ethan Bullemor.
Niu, Paix, Xavier Coates and Tom Dearden are vying for the utility spot, but the Tongan ace is tipped to get the nod. Paix will be 18th man.
The 177cm, 90kg Niu glides across the turf like Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Broncos teammates have been blown away by his pace, footwork and tackle-busting strength in training sessions.
The Logan product is a fitness fanatic who was so dedicated to making the NRL as a 13-year-old that he would stretch every night in his lounge room.
"As a kid, he was doing extras at training," Seibold said.
"He has a fantastic attitude and his professionalism is outstanding. The school he went to, Marsden State High, the principal and school teachers there have praised Tesi for how well respected he was, not because of his athletic ability but the way he carried himself as a person and a character.
"He's got a work ethic in our squad that is second-to-none."
Originally published as Broncos to unleash teen sensation for NRL debut