Wynnum Manly’s reputation as both a winning club and a development pathway to the top is epitomised by back rower Keenan Palasia who looms as game breaker in Sunday’s Intrust Super Cup grand final.
The skilful back rower will run out at Dolphin Stadium against Burleigh Bears with a spring in his step after being rewarded with a new NRL deal with the Brisbane Broncos this year and playing two top grade games for the club.
When the 22-year-old failed to secure a contract at the Broncos at the start of the season after a train and trial stint he didn’t kick stones. Instead he went back to the Seagulls and played a series of barnstorming games to ultimately win a new full-time contract with Brisbane.
Palasia had started a full-time job in a bank after representing Queensland Residents earlier in the year but soon handed in his notice.
Seagulls coach Adam Brideson said Palasia’s story was “really special” and a tribute to his skill and character.
“We have been with Keenan through the Broncos 20s and then he did the pre-season with the Broncos before coming back with us full-time,” Brideson said.
“Through a lot of hard work and commitment and with good structures he has been able to get himself a full-time deal. He deserves that opportunity after his body probably let him down in those early stages of his career just through injury.
“Keenan can play through the middle third or on an edge which is uncommon these days. He defends really well, runs hard and has really good skill. He needs to keep working hard but as a 22-year-old I think he has a big future ahead of him.”
Wynnum Manly captain Mitch Cronin, who was previously in the Broncos and Canberra Raiders system, said Palasia provided hope and inspiration to all players who had fallen out of NRL programs that all was not lost when a hurdle presented itself.
“It’s a credit to Keenan because he came back to us and played himself back into a full-time contract and the Broncos signed him up for another couple of years. That doesn’t happen too often, getting let go by a club and then being picked up again,” Cronin said.
“It is a sign of how hard he has worked and how well he has been playing. Keenan has been enormous for us and one of our best forwards all year.”
Brideson said the club was proud of its record this year of providing a stepping stone to the next level with Palasia not the only one to secure a deal at the next level.
“We have two 18s – Jake Simpkin and Reece Hoffman – who have both signed with the Wests Tigers and our Cup fullback Edene Gebbie has signed a South Sydney deal through our Intrust Super Cup program,” Brideson said.
“We want them to play for Wynnum Manly for as long as possible but we also want them to live their dreams, develop and go on to NRL systems and make a full-time career out of it.”