Having worn the name of his late friend on his wrist all season, Sunday’s grand final presents Jordan Riki with the chance to fulfil a promise he made following Liam Hampson’s passing last year.
Riki and Broncos teammate Jesse Arthars were among the group on holiday with Liam – who was a promising player with Redcliffe in the Queensland Cup at the time – when he passed away last October.
Having dedicated his 2023 season to his mate and worn the ‘Hampo’ message on his wrist all year, Riki spoke candidly ahead of the grand final about the pledge he made shortly after Liam's death.
"When he passed away I do remember talking to his family quite closely and I sort of made a promise to myself, and to him, that I want to go out and win a premiership for him.
“I did say it earlier in the year, so to be here in these shoes right now is a bit emotional and I definitely know he is with me.
“He is with the boys too; Patty Carrigan was very close with him as well, coming through the junior grades together.
“I just can’t wait to run out there with his name on my wrist.”
Dealing with Liam’s death has been part of a year in which 23-year-old Riki says he has matured as a person and player, crediting the influence veteran forward Martin Taupau has had on him since joining the Broncos this season.
“Maturing in the game, someone like Marty, he came into the squad earlier on this year and I have had some real serious discussions with him about maturing as a player and fully understanding the game,” Riki said.
“He has definitely been a huge help with me and I can hands down say that I definitely wouldn’t be the player I am and person I am without his help.”
Meanwhile Riki will have his nearest and dearest in attendance at the grand final on Sunday, something he won’t be taking for granted after spending the first two years of his career isolated from family back in New Zealand due to the pandemic.
The powerful second-rower will also be targeting games back on home soil next month as part of the Kiwis' team for the Pacific Championships, having spent time in camp with the side last year before being overlooked for the World Cup squad.
“It was really tough during that COVID season to not be able to see my family. I sort of lost myself a bit,” Riki said.
“I am such a family driven person. For me to be able to switch off sometimes is to go home and Kevvie (coach Kevin Walters), a few times this year when we had a bye and stuff, would let me go home and be myself and unwind.”