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Sailor out to prove a point for spot on Broncos lineup

Andrew Mathieson -

It's almost hard to fathom that Tristan Sailor's name on ability alone was never read out to replace one of the many withdrawals from the Indigenous All Stars side.

Then again, it's a headscratcher how Sailor has not filled one of the spaces on the whiteboard belonging to Kevin Walters in the Brisbane Broncos lineup akin to how Tristan's dad, Wendell, always did when the winger was teammates with his son's coach.

But the standout performances in the club's initial trials this month may change all of that to get on the flight to Las Vegas for March 3 to face the Sydney Roosters.

Otherwise, Sailor could be heading to Britain sooner than later for the spotlight of the Super League.

He confirmed discussions with his management have already taken place to lure him away from his current Broncos deal to play full minutes in his favoured fullback spot.

Reece Walsh's brilliant return last season to Red Hill from across the ditch has made the Torres Strait Islander's realistic claims to that same position near impossible.

Sailor's recent showings has suggested he's too good to play off the bench or even that there is a place there for the versatile back alongside the fresh game-breaking forwards.

"I think Super League suits someone of my attributes and I think that a part of it (as well), obviously, is being able to play in a position," Sailor told Nine media.

"With me, a fullback, we've got Walshy, who is arguably the best in the game.

"There was definitely interest there, but I've ended up staying at Broncs, and I guess the 17 is a hard one to crack because we've got so many quality players, and that's why if there are injuries (I'll come in) or maybe try and snag a bench spot if possible.

"The utility spot is becoming bigger in the game with how fast it is, but I've just got to keep working on cutting my errors out and improving to hopefully get in that 17."

He did steal the show against Queensland Cup side Wynnum Manly in the unforgiving surrounds of Kougari Oval to score twice – including the match-sealer at the death – for a 26-16 second-string win to suggest why not?

Sailor amazingly did not enter the fray until the Broncos trailed 10-0 and with an upset on the cards, but a strong hand in every one of the other four tries seemed to prove a point to Walters in the absence of a rested Walsh in the unsanctioned outing.

There was everything to watch in the package for Super League clubs from a precise cutout pass, a masterful tap-back from a high bomb and a freakish banana kick that directed a teammate over the tryline with the ball landing in his arms.

Limited to just four NRL appearances last season, Sailor could not have done more to impress Walters to find a definitive role in the 2023 minor premier's lineup more than five months on.

Then there was facing North Queensland Cowboys in Mackay the weekend after.

Walsh was back in and Sailor was named one of the reserves.

Sailor got onto the park and crossed seven minutes after Walsh scored in the 43rd minute to claim a 46-20 victory.

Both men broke the advantage line to set up each other's tries in putting team first.

Inking a two-year deal with the Broncos through to the end of 2025 is the only real bargaining power the club has to sway Sailor from asking for an early release this year.

While Sailor is determined to prove a point to the coach, he is relatively open to pass on Super League offers this year and next.

"Kev's a great coach and he's identified that, he has mentioned in passing this (trials) is an opportunity," Sailor said.

"We have a lot of the 17 from the grand final last year, so, of course it's (side) going to stay like that for a bit.

"But if the opportunity arises, we would both be open to the idea of me being a utility.

"It's just whether I impress enough to get in there and how the team works out."

Nine NRL matches for a time in the game that began way back in 2019 at St George Illawarra from a pretty good playing pedigree has at least spurred on Sailor after having two years in the reserve-grade wilderness after the Dragons sacked him controversially.

He had been arrested days after the 2020 pandemic-affected grand final for aggravated sexual assault and had to wait nearly 18 months to be found not guilty.

But the 25-year-old has looked for inspiration to be a better player to fulfil a late career boom from an inspirational Indigenous story.

"Cody Walker is a good example for me to follow," Walsh said.

"He didn't debut until he was 26, but I'm seeing what you can do when you're older.

"The longevity of my game is probably expanding as well."


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