'I'll be playing for Zae and his family': Glenn nursing heavy heart for 250th game
June 8, 2019
When he runs out for his 250th game for the Broncos on Sunday, Alex Glenn will have a stark reminder of how quickly life can change when he pays tribute to a young friend who tragically passed away last week.
Given that he played his junior footy on the Gold Coast and continues to call it home, that Glenn will reach such a significant milestone against the Titans is somewhat fitting.
One of the most liked and respected figures at the Broncos for more than a decade, Glenn’s rugby league journey has been an emotional one, not least of which has been the highs and lows of the past week.
Zae Wallace, a family friend who played under 20s with the Titans in 2017-2018, returned to Auckland earlier this year but passed away suddenly last weekend after initially contracting the flu.
Titans players AJ Brimson and Darius Farmer both flew to New Zealand to attend the funeral and Glenn said the 20-year-old will be in his thoughts when he runs out on Sunday.
"It's quite surreal to be honest. There have been mixed emotions all week about the whole milestone coming up,” Glenn said.
"[Wallace's sudden passing] was something that just popped up out of nowhere. He played a game of footy, started coughing up blood the next day and went into hospital and got pneumonia and it was downhill from there.
"It is very scary that a lot of terrible things are happening to younger kids. That's why I said it's been an emotional week; it's been up and down.
"The best thing is I've got my family around me and some great support that's helped me through this period.
"We're getting through it together and I'll be playing out there for myself but also for him and his family. It's going to be a big game.”
Being named the youngest Broncos captain in club history when he was 22 is among the most memorable highlights of his career.
But Glenn is just grateful that he ever got to play one NRL game.
As a 15-year-old attending Miami State High School on the Gold Coast, Glenn was diagnosed with a spinal cord that bent the wrong way.
He was told immediately to stop playing contact sports. The chiropractor went as far as to say Glenn would be endangering his if he continued to play rugby league.
At that point Glenn thought that his NRL dreams had been cruelly taken from him but after a year away from the game he was cleared to continue his path towards the NRL.
"When I reflect I still pinch myself that I'm in this situation because when I went through that tough period I honestly gave up hope,” the 30-year-old said.
"It was very hard because rugby league was my passion, rugby league was my everything and as a 16-year-old, when you get told you can't play rugby league again it's something that is hard to swallow.
"I'll never forget the day that I was told that. It was an emotional day for myself and my mother but it helped to develop the person that I am today.
"My determination, my resilience and I'm very grateful for it.
"I honestly never thought I'd be in this situation let alone play one NRL game.
"It's just crazy how life happens and how the stars align.
"I'm just very grateful and blessed.”
Glenn is on track to surpass club legends Shane Webcke (254 games), Andrew Gee (255) and Allan Langer (258) by the end of the season, which would make him the fifth-most capped Bronco.
It's hard to find anyone who says a bad word about him, although teammate Jamayne Isaako did reveal one area in which he could improve.
"He tries to sing in the shower but he's got the worst voice ever,” Isaako said.
"He was actually singing in the shower last training session and I told him to shut up. It was terrible.
"He's always singing old-school songs, songs that probably came out before I was even born.
"Definitely a huge occasion for him this week. To play 250 games is a milestone that not too many players reach. Hopefully we can go out there and get a win for him.”