Adam Reynolds was a South Sydney Rabbitoh to the core, making his first grade debut in 2012 after a glittering junior career with the club. After winning the 2014 NRL premiership, breaking the club's 43-year title drought, he dreamt of leading the Rabbitohs to more success before eventually retiring proudly as a one-club player.
In 2021 Reynolds sought a three-year extension. He figured it would be the final contract of his career and he could hang up the boots having given his all for the club he loved. The Rabbitohs, perhaps buoyed by a couple of promising youngsters, would initially only offer him a one-year deal. It was a slap in the face for someone who had dedicated his whole career to the Bunnies, had led them to glory, and along the way had become the club's leading points scorer.
The decision facing Reynolds? Swallow his pride and take the one-year extension or stand his ground and try his luck elsewhere. As soon as news spread of the trouble at Redfern, the phone started ringing. The Sharks were one of the clubs circling and it certainly would have been an easy move to make.
Watching on keenly were the Brisbane Broncos and new coach Kevin Walters. It had long been obvious that the Broncos had struggled since Ben Hunt's premature departure to find a halfback capable of leading the team to glory. Should Reynolds uproot his young family and move all the way to Brisbane to take a gamble on the Broncos, who had just won the club's first ever wooden spoon in 2020? It was a sliding doors moment for Reynolds, and he jumped right in, signing on for three years under Walters, with a promise of returning the proud club to prominence.
Born and raised on the Gold Coast, Reece Walsh grew up wanting to be a Brisbane Bronco. A Keebra Park alumni, Walsh had a dazzling junior career, staring for Queensland and Australia at age level, whilst in the Broncos's junior system. In 2021 he joined the Broncos NRL squad on a development contract, but was sent to the Queensland Cup to build experience. Walsh believed he was ready for first grade, Walters and the club thought differently and he requested an immediate release from his contract to join the COVID-exiled New Zealand Warriors.
"I thought I'd be at the Broncos - I thought I'd be a Bronco for life," Walsh said at the time.
"It didn't work out. I sat down and had a chat with Kevvie, and the plans I wanted for my future, they weren't the same as what he wanted.
"I wanted to play first grade...... but Kevvie didn't think I was quite ready. He wanted to hold me back a bit. They had Jamayne [Isaako] there."
He made his debut for the Warriors that same year and it wasn't long before he had proven that he was indeed ready for first grade, tearing defences apart from the fullback position. Midway through the 2022 season he requested an early release from his three-year Warriors contract, citing personal reasons. The Dolphins, searching for a super star to front their new franchise, threw a bag of money at him. Redcliffe wasn't far from Brisbane, where his young daughter lived, and he could play under legendary coach Wayne Bennett and help launch the new club.
Walsh, who should have been at the Warriors at least until the end of 2023, faced a decision between the joining the Dolphins or returning to the Broncos, and his heart said Brisbane.
Walsh has formed a formidable partnership with Reynolds in their first year together. The experienced champion halfback and the superstar young fullback, together at the Broncos through unpredictable twists of fate. Now they have a chance to break a premiership dry spell for the Broncos which stretches uncomfortably back to 2006.
This Sunday, Reynolds could have been leading the Rabbitohs into another grand final, or he could have been on a beach in Bali. Walsh could have been the difference maker, the one piece of spark that could have seen the Warriors into the grand final, or similarly on an end of season trip somewhere.
But, because of the Rabbitohs' reluctance to give a champion the send-off he deserved, Reynolds will carry the hopes of Brisbane onto Accor Stadium to face the formidable Panthers. Darting around outside him will be Walsh, living his dream of playing first grade for the Broncos.