Forward Fletcher Baker has arrived at the Broncos hoping to rise to the occasion and fill the boots left by the departure of Thomas Flegler – but first of all, he has to tackle the Brisbane humidity.
“I came up a little bit early just to get a bit of volume in the legs and I’m glad I did, because today, it was a punch in the face; a bit of heat and I was struggling, but I got through it,” Baker told media after a morning training session at Red Hill.
“I’m trying to get used to it; I’m trying to make a good impression, so I’m being loud and giving 110%, but I think I just need to work up to it.
“I actually keep complaining about the heat and they say wait to January and February.”
Signed from the Roosters in June on a two-year contract, Baker played 15 games in 2023, including the narrow loss to Melbourne in week two of the finals, and said he was hoping to be part a revamped Broncos forward pack in a squad who were ‘hungrier’ for success after falling just short in the decider.
“To play alongside the crew that they have got; the forwards, it’s incredible; but I haven’t really taken too much interest in that [claiming a starting front row spot], I want to get my best pre-season in and sort of make an impression, I want to be in that team and wherever I fit, I fit,” Baker said.
“(But there is a great opportunity), they had Keenan (Palasia) who left and he was a benchie, then Flegler up top and they’re good players and I think the team that they were last year and then this year as well, I think their football complements me as well.
“I like to play support, ball play and get quick play-the-balls and then if you can do that off Payne Haas and Patty Carrigan and then all the pretty boys at the back, that’s great footy.”
Despite the departures of two rep forwards, there will be plenty of competition for Fletcher to contend with.
Among the is options moving Carrigan from lock to partner Haas in the front row, a position he has played before at both club and representative level and a rising crop of young players who have signed on long-term.
The Broncos also have experienced forwards including Martin Taupau and Corey Jensen who will be looking to get back into the 17.
“Obviously, they’ve lost some good players, but if you look inside these walls, there’s some young players going through and they’re really developing and hopefully I can play that part as well,” Fletcher said.
“They’ve lost some good players, but they’ve also got a lot of potential going through.
“It’s a tight crew and they got some older heads like Marty, (Kurt) Capewell, Corey and Adam (Reynolds) running the ship; it’s really well balanced.”
With the majority of the squad also having experienced the 2023 trophy being prised from their grasp by a historic Panthers fightback, Fletcher said from what he had seen so far, the memory would help the players strive to go one better in 2024.
“I remember watching the game and I thought Broncs had it and then obviously, the Panthers just played that great football,” Baker said.
“But realistically, it makes boys hungrier too; there’s so many standards here.
“We are just at the start of the pre-season and when the older boys come up, you have got to pick up the slack too.
“So, they’re definitely hungry and that’s the exciting part for me too.”