League newcomer completes stunning transition
EIGHT months ago, Izaia Perese was so raw in rugby league terms the former Queensland Reds star spewed at his first training session with the Brisbane Broncos.
On Friday night, Perese will receive sweet reward for his impressive conversion to the NRL when the attacking ace makes his Broncos debut in their top-eight blockbuster against the Panthers at Suncorp Stadium.
Perese has been a revelation in his rookie year in the Intrust Super Cup, scoring seven tries for Brisbane feeder-club Redcliffe and leading the competition for tackle busts with a staggering 117 from 15 games.
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The silky outside back produced 14 tackle breaks in three consecutive games - the type of attacking numbers associated with tackle-busting Roosters dynamo James Tedesco.
Now Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold believes Perese is ready for the big time, backing the 22-year-old to be his interchange super-sub as the Broncos look for some extra spark to match Penrith's attacking power.
"'Izzy has played under the bright lights at Suncorp in a Queensland Reds jersey ... now he can do it in a Broncos jersey," said Seibold, who has relegated prop Rhys Kennedy to blood Perese.
"He is really good as far as tackle breaks goes, he leads that particular stat in the Queensland Cup.
"Adam Mogg, who coaches Redcliffe, I always get feedback from him and he suggested Izzy has really improved his understanding of the game.
"He played league as a kid but the bulk of his last five years has been in rugby.
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"Izzy has some X-factor about him, he is only very young but it's really exciting to give him an opportunity in the Broncos jersey."
Perese played Australian Schoolboys rugby and starred in the green-and-gold at the 2017 under-20s World Cup, scoring a hat-trick in a pool game against Italy.
But the class of a Penrith side headlined by 120kg back-row monster Viliame Kikau and NSW Origin pivot James Maloney will pose a far greater challenge for Perese, who was shocked by the NRL's training standards when he arrived at Red Hill last summer.
"He struggled a bit with the training load and intensity," Seibold said.
"He's a good story, he was training by himself for a little while before joining us.
"When he came across, it was an eye opener for him training in December.
"I've just allowed Izzy to learn the game at Redcliffe, but he gives us some good coverage in the outside backs and he is ready to have an opportunity."
If the Broncos beat Penrith, they will leapfrog the Panthers into seventh spot and almost certainly cement a finals spot.
If they lose, the Broncos could finish the weekend in ninth or 10th spot, but Seibold insists the Panthers clash will not define their finals hopes.
"It's a big game, but it won't make or break our season," he said.
"We have other games after this and we will try and be better than last week. Both teams have got talented players, but we believe we can perform well.
"We have to be good defensively because attack is their weapon."