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God speed: The climb of Broncos' not-so ancient Mariner

Joe Gould -

Brisbane's electrifying winger Deine Mariner has a tattoo on his left arm which says 'GOD SPEED' and sums up what makes him tick on and off the field.

"It is a saying where everything works in God's timing," Mariner explained.

"I work at the speed, but it is not my speed. It is from someone that is higher than me."

The 21-year-old has eight tries in the eight NRL games he has played in 2024. He is certainly speedy.

Mariner's soft-shoe shuffle and silky burst of acceleration left Parramatta fullback Blaize Talagi clutching at the breeze in the first of two tries in the 30-14 win last week. The way he pushed the "go" button to find another gear with effortless ease had class written all over it.

Mariner is a devout Christian and a very humble young man. His god is on his arm, and in his heart.

He also has a scripture from the second book of Thessalonians on his right arm, in cursive script, which is personal to him.

"I am a Christian so it is a scripture about working hard and knowing why you do the stuff that you love," Mariner said.

"Everyone has a different reason, but this (verse) is for my faith and my family."

It was a leap of faith that led Mariner to leave New Zealand, the country of his birth, and move with his parents to the Gold Coast on a wing and a prayer when he was a teenager.

His discovery by Broncos head of recruitment Simon Scanlan had an air of predestination, and perhaps a divine hand at work.

Mariner was playing for Marist Saints in the Auckland competition in the under 14s when Scanlan arrived to watch the action, keen to survey the landscape and unearth a diamond in the rough.

The "golden eye" theory of NRL recruitment, where a player is signed on one viewing by a shrewd scout, applied that day. Scanlan struck gold on a memorable fossick.

"I didn't go to specifically watch Deine but he was playing five-eighth that day and had the ability to break tackles. He wasn't overly fast or strong but he had a nice pass and the ability to get between defenders and create space," Scanlan told AAP.

"We brought him into camp at the end of that year with our Broncos academy, where he did well, and we signed him at the end of the next year as a 15-year-old."

"He stayed in New Zealand for the next two or three years and then towards the back end of his schooling he moved to the Gold Coast with his family and went to Palm Beach Currumbin High."

Mariner worked closely with the academy's physical development coach Dave Ballard, now the club's NRL head of performance. From a youthful raw talent, he has developed into one of the NRL's genuine speed demons.

"Pace is something I picked up a bit later in my teenage years," Mariner said.

"Dave helped me build myself into my best in terms of speed and all the physical stuff.

"We do a lot of speed work here during the week and look at a lot of (video) footage.

"Dave has tried not to change my technique too much because it is a bit natural."

Scanlan said Mariner's speed as a teenager was nothing like it is now, but he listened to feedback and chipped away at his physical development with maturity to become a top class athlete.

Mariner, whose goal is to represent New Zealand in Test football, has not looked back since leaving the country of his birth. Signed until the end of 2027 with the Broncos, he is one of the side's three elite wingers, including veteran Corey Oates and the currently injured Jesse Arthars.

"There is a lot of depth in this team and anyone could be playing that wing position so I made it a goal to do everything I could on and off the field to lock in that position," Mariner said.

"My parents left (New Zealand) back in 2019 and I finished my last two years of high school here. I didn't know if I was going to be playing for the Brisbane Broncos but I was lucky enough to stay. It has been a massive dream since we moved here."

The poet Samuel Coleridge wrote 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' in the 18th century about the extraordinary and, at times, supernatural experiences of a sailor who had returned from a long voyage.

The not-so ancient Broncos' Mariner, named on the wing for the Magic Round clash with Manly on Friday night, certainly has gifts that are out of this world. His coach Kevin Walters won't want him making his own voyage across the ditch to New Zealand any time soon.

"On race day Deine gets the engine fired up and he is fast," Walters said.

"He has made some really big improvements to his game. I like the fact he has good speed, good awareness and defends really well. He is a try scorer. That is just what he is."

Joe Gould - AAP

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