Dubbed the poster boy for perseverance and determination by teammate Pat Carrigan, Broncos forward Keenan Palasia is aiming to close out his time at the club with a premiership ring on his finger.
In his relatively short senior career, Palasia has come back from three ACLs, a fractured shoulder, an MCL, PCL, ankle and a hand injury, all before the age of 24; but this year has worked his way into being a vital piece of Brisbane's forwards puzzle, coming from the bench in recent weeks to continue the work started by the club’s starting pack.
“I have mentioned before a couple of the injuries that he had, but just to see your friends doing well and the hardships that he's been through … I don't know if he likes it or not, but he's become the storyline for perseverance and determination,” Carrigan said.
“He's a character, everyone loves him and to see the footy and quality of footy that I knew he was capable of and he's playing now; it's pretty impressive.
“He deserves all the raps and he probably flies under the radar a bit, so does Kobe (Hetherington). He's fought hard, he's worked on his game and it's his footy that’s doing the talking.”
Carrigan and Palasia may only have one more game left together – but for Broncos fans, hopefully two – starting with the grand final qualifier against the Warriors on Saturday night.
Late last year, Palasia made the decision to head to the Gold Coast and sign with the Titans - where he was formerly part of their junior systems - for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, citing opportunity and a move back home for the switch.
However, he understands he will still have to work hard for his place in the side, with the Titans boasting representative forwards Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika, David Fifita and Isaac Liu.
“It was more just to chase opportunity,” Palasia said of his move to the Titans.
“I think I'm at the point in my career where I need to get out of my comfort zone and chase something different, so I thought going back home to Gold Coast was the next best thing and hopefully, I can do that as a premiership winner.
“I enjoy a challenge … it's not like I'm going to a team that's really struggling on form. I'm going there with forwards (in the side) that have more rep honours than I do.
“I didn't sign at the club thinking I was going to make the 13, let alone the 17. Hopefully I go there, have a good pre-season and put my best foot forward.
“You need that challenge to further yourself and I think any competitive athlete will agree that you have to have something pushing you, otherwise, you lose a drive for it.”
Right now, the focus remains of making the most of his remaining time at the Broncos, and while his form earlier this year fluctuated, a five-game stint back at Wynnum Manly in the Hostplus Cup was the catalyst to him finding his best form and playing the kind of football that demanded he get selected for the finals, keeping the more experienced Martin Taupau and Corey Jensen out of the side.
“I just had to find some confidence,” Palasia said. “Going back to Cup and getting a few wins under my belt in the Wynnum team helped and then just trying to find my form that I've had previously. Now, I am just trying to cement that, and hopefully finish the year with a ring on my finger.
“It is pretty cool to be playing finals, it was my first finals game last week and to get a win; 100 percent finals rate at the moment, it's pretty good, so hopefully we can keep it that way.”
Carrigan said he wasn’t surprised to see Palasia bounce back and perform as he had been during the later stages of the season, attributing a simplified game plan by coach Kevin Walters to helping him nail down his role for the team.
“(Keenan went back to Cup for a bit) this year; he was braining it early in the season and then picked up a little injury and we have some competition for spots here – obviously Corey Jensen and Marty are missing out at the moment and they're unreal players who'd be playing at a lot of other clubs,” Carrigan said.
“And what Kev has done is that he makes it simple. Kev's pretty laid back, but he says if your footy does the talking, then you get picked.
“Keenan deserves all he's getting at the moment and I know we've got a couple of games left together, but I'm pretty excited for him too for when he goes to the Titans, because I think his best footy is well and truly in front of him.”
Although he’s not thought too far ahead of Saturday’s preliminary final against the Warriors just yet, Palasia did have one eye on adding to his one Test appearance for Samoa at the Pacific Championships.
Growing up in Queensland with both Māori (from the Te Āti Awa iwi) and Samoan heritage, Palasia said his time with the Samoa squad last year where was able to represent his father’s background was a great cultural experience.
“That is something I'd like to strive for at the end of the year; I haven't really thought anything international until hopefully until the end of the grand final, then I'll have a think about it (properly),” Palasia said.
“But if I get selected, I'd happily play … I played the Test match against Cook Islands last year and that was a good experience … to learn a bit more about my culture was pretty good.
“(I also wanted) to honour my dad's side of the family, which I thought I did; did them proud and hopefully, I can do that again this year.”