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Bubble guns: Young players to watch in the NRL squads

Other than getting schooled in how to play ping pong by a prop this week, life is pretty good for Sunshine Coast Falcons and Melbourne Storm young gun to watch Trent Loiero.

A rising talent who was selected to be part of the Queensland Under 20 training squad earlier this year, the second rower is one of a number of fringe players living life in the ‘bubble’ with an NRL squad; but he knows he's pretty lucky to have the opportunity he has at the moment. 

“It’s not too much different at the moment, we have been put up in pretty good accommodation here at the Novotel (Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast), so I can’t complain about that,” Loiero said.

“(We are) just training as normal sort of thing, we have been lucky enough to be on the Sunny Coast and train at the stadium and we have a gym set up there, so that’s all sorted and everyone is ripping into training as normal and the schedule is pretty much the same.

“For free time, I suppose everyone has been trying to get out to the beach and get a bit of a tan or there has been a bit of ping pong happening, bit of golf, so everyone has been pretty occupied.

“It’s good, I’m stoked to be here, I love training, all the boys are still really good, the vibe is really good, it’s business as usual I suppose.”

However, some things have definitely changed - "we get COVID tested every week before the game, so captain’s run day, we get the swab up the nose and down the back of the throat, which is not too enjoyable” – and even though he’s back where he grew up, for now, he is not able to visit his family.

“You have to get an exemption to see people outside the bubble... I am from the Sunshine Coast for example, but I am not allowed to see my family unless I have an exemption and to get an exemption, there has to be an actual reason to go see them, so they are pretty strict on that side of it,” Loiero said.

“It’s a little bit hard, but there’s people a lot worse off than us and we are very grateful to be where we are and the boys are really thinking of all the fans at home.

“They have the big ‘v’ on their jersey and they are business as usual, trying to rip in every week and trying to get the win for the fans at home in Melbourne, because at the end of the day, the fans are a massive part of the club.”

The Storm have been playing well and are one point off the top of the ladder; a feat that has required hard work from all of the players in the squad, not just those who get to don the jersey in the final 17 every week.

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Got to play sum footy 2 weeks ago for the first time in a while👀👀

A post shared by Trent Loiero (@trent.loiero) on

For Loiero, who recently was able to play in a 10-a-side, modified field scrimmage match against Canberra Raiders, working hard at training and pushing the more established players in the team is his key role.

“That’s a massive driving force, obviously us ‘renegades’ are not playing each week, so we want to come to training and be positive every day and train as well as we can to put the NRL boys in a position where they are training as best as they can to prepare for the weekend,” Loiero said.

“We want to prepare the NRL boys each week to be ready to go on game day, we have got to have a good energy and a good positive attitude to training just to prepare the boys as well as we can.”

Darryn Schonig - Absolute weapon

And with two of his fellow Falcons squad members in Chris Lewis and Darryn Schonig making their NRL debuts already this year, the dream is still alive for players like Loiero.

“One hundred per cent, that would be unreal, but I am just trying to keep ripping into training and keep working on my game as much as I can and do as much as I can to put myself in that position,” Loiero said.

“If that position arises where I do get a chance, that’ll be awesome, but it’s all head-down, bum up for me to keep training, keep doing what I can do to put myself on that position.”

One area he may been to work on however are his skills with the ping pong paddle, with tournaments being held nightly in the sport.

“Well, there’s ping pong tournaments everywhere, but there is one (rivalry) that is pretty obvious to everyone, and that’s between Darryn Schonig and coach Jason Ryles, so the big boys are in there a fair bit and they are battling a fair bit,” Loiero said.

“Darryn wasn’t the best player when we first game here, but he’s definitely improved and he’s in there every night playing ping pong and every night he wants to go against everyone.

“He is working hard, he is in there every night and trying to play ping pong. He towelled me up last night, he gave me a touch up – so I have to keep working at it."

Four more fringe players to watch

Ioane Seiuli - Gold Coast Titans / Tweed Seagulls

Another player working hard in his NRL club bubble is Gold Coast Titans back Ioane Seiuli. The Tweed Seagulls rookie of the year nominee in 2019 scored nine tries last year in the Intrust Super Cup. The centre made a solid contribution for the Seagulls off the bench in their Round 1 win over the Northern Pride earlier this year and is no doubt training hard to work his way into a Titans NRL jersey if the opportunity arises this season.

Pride Petterson-Robati - Brisbane Broncos / Norths Devils

An impressive backrower with Norths Devils last season, Petterson-Robati was also previously part of the Melbourne Storm under 20 system. Improved fitness saw him earn a place in the Cook Islands team that played in June’s representative weekend last year as well. According to fellow Broncos squad member Keenan Palasia – who made his NRL debut in Round 16 last season and is now recovering well from an ACL injury – Petterson-Robati is going well at training. “He has been on the extended bench a fair few times now so he’s not far off,” Palasia said. “He has good vision and ball skills for a big unit.”

Ben Condon - North Queensland Cowboys / Northern Pride

Backrower Ben Condon, who celebrated his 20th birthday earlier this month, made his Intrust Super Cup debut with the Northern Pride in Round 1 this year, following on from two impressive seasons with Townsville Blackhawks in the Hastings Deering Colts competition. Condon has also been a feature of Queensland’s representative squads, with the towering forward playing in the Queensland Under 20 team last year.

Joshua James - Brisbane Broncos / Norths Devils 

Joint winner of the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup award last season, the talented halfback and five-eighth is currently in the rehab group with the Brisbane Broncos, but will be one to look out for when he is back fit and firing. The youngster is one of the club's 'next wave' of talent who are developing their skills with the club, but played for the Devils in the Hastings Deering Colts in Round 1 this year. James also captained the Queensland Under 18 side to victory in their representative match against New South Wales last year.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.