The search to find barnstorming Brisbane backrower David Fifita's replacement may already be over after young gun Jordan Riki impressed in just his fourth NRL game on Thursday..
Interim Broncos coach Peter Gentle is convinced Riki can fill Gold Coast-bound Fifita's big shoes next year after the 20-year-old's head-turning display in Thursday's 25-12 loss to Penrith.
Riki was a huge presence in a spirited Brisbane display, coming off the bench to add much needed physicality in defence against the ladder leaders before unleashing in attack.
Riki ran off halfback Tom Dearden to cut through the Panthers defence before backing himself to evade fullback Dylan Edwards and crash over to complete a spectacular 45 metre try in the 62nd minute.
Riki celebrated like he had notched the match-winner in a rare highlight for the Broncos as they slumped to their 14th loss in 15 games.
While Brisbane are now battling to avoid their first wooden spoon, Gentle believed the future was bright with Riki in their ranks.
Asked if Riki could next year fill the void created by Queensland backrower Fifita's departure, Gentle said: "100 per cent.
"He is one of those young players you talk about.
"The club needs a backrower, doesn't it, and we have been grooming him.
"He moves well for a big boy, and he's only a baby too. There's something to look forward to there."
Gentle said the rewards were finally coming for Riki who had to clear plenty of obstacles to finally make his NRL debut a month ago against Canberra.
The youngster battled a knee complaint earlier this year before struggling with quarantine after opting to visit homeland New Zealand during the COVID breakdown.
After his return he broke down again with an ankle syndesmosis injury.
"When he debuted we talked about what he has been through," Gentle said."
"(Between injuries) he spent time in quarantine and he's not a bloke who needs to be by himself, he needs people around him."
"But he's going to be good. We've been pushing his time, he had 50 minutes (against Penrith), and he was still cruising."
Riki may already be identified as Fifita's replacement but Gentle wasn't ready to farewell the Queensland X-factor just yet.
Gentle all but dared Fifita to flex his muscles against the team he will join on a multi-million, three year deal in 2021 when they line up against Gold Coast on September 12.
"I hope he shows them what they are getting," Gentle laughed.
"But we need everyone to step up. We don't want to be a one man team. And I think you saw that (against Penrith). We really played for each other."