‘He looked terrified as Fifita came towards him!’
Each Friday I will be taking you on a trip down memory lane to relive the careers of some of Australian rugby league’s lesser lights.
Although Corey Parker debuted with no hair and then went straight to being a silver fox, he was far from one of the oldest Broncos to debut. That honour instead goes to this week’s flashback, big Palmer Wapau.
At the time of his 2009 debut, Wapau was working part-time as a groundsmen picking up rubbish at Redcliffe Oval for the Dolphins, the Queensland Cup side he happened to play for.
Receiving a call-up in favour of big David Taylor, the Torres Strait Islander became an immediate hit with fans. Wapau, a second-rower-cum-prop by trade, had enjoyed several strong seasons with the Redcliffe Dolphins and showed his versatility by playing five-eighth for a large portion of the 2007 season.
But, the step up to the NRL can be a cruel one and nothing quite says honest toiler like your coach (Ivan Henjak) announcing “we’re not expecting anything special from Palmer,” before your first match.
As it turned out Henjak was right. Palmer featured in just five matches throughout the season – his one and only season in the NRL.
Wapau’s brief yet memorable stint in first grade has sparked a lasting legacy. There is a greyhound named Palmer Wapau in honour of the Weipa native, owned by Rodney Kidd. The greyhound’s last known race was in Mudgee, 2012.
Before Wapau made his debut, Cowboys legend Matty Bowen claimed that Wapau was the best player yet to play in the NRL. Chances are the Cowboys won’t be offering the custodian a role in player recruitment anytime soon.