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Wham, bam, thank you Mam! Brisbane playmaker shows off the mark of this man

Andrew Mathieson -

Ezra Mam all but agreed to terms before the Brisbane front office doors closed for the year.

The club and his agent are reportedly sifting through the fine print before Mam puts pen to paper and signs on the dotted line to continue his story.

Yet nearly all of the first two decades of Mam's colourful life is dotted not just in the annals of rugby league and the video highlights packages, but all over his skin.

The tattoos linked to his Indigenous roots are a grateful salute to his past before turning into a superstar almost overnight.

Mam rose from near anonymity to being named the Dally M five-eighth of the year.

Up to six NRL clubs were believed to be willing to lure away the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal man from Red Hill, with the Dolphins – the crosstown rivals of the Broncos – leading the money offers under the guile of coach Wayne Bennett.

Mam is entering the final season of his contract in 2023, but a new deal is set to boost his pay packet to $3 million over the following four years, according to CODE Sports.

"That's my aim, to stay here at the Broncos," Mam said in December.

"I want to start another generation here. It would definitely be a great opportunity to jump on the bandwagon here with all of the other boys and make the Broncos great again.

"Seeing Payne (Haas) re-sign and the boys stay here, it's a huge factor for myself. I love the Broncos because of the culture and the professionalism of the club.

"Hopefully we can get that deal done soon and I'll be here for a long time."

Just long enough to etch a few more stories with the Broncos' family all over his body.

Before the top-level football was seen on the horizons, the rookie cared for his family almost exclusively. They are represented in murals full of ink that fill up his swelling chest.

The images are so so distinct, they lure the eyes towards his enhanced upper strength that confronted many tacklers this year in a stellar 23-game, second season.

The needle tributes are to one of Mam's late grandmothers and grandfathers, Pamela and Steve, who both passed away before their grandson debuted in 2022.

The sadness of their passing draws sheer silence from Mam in a sign of respect their influence had on his meteoric rise.

The names of mum and dad, Tomasina and Mukubi, then sit above his grandparents as a further mark of respect to his elders.

She lives on Hammond (known as, Keriri) Island, a dinghy ride from Thursday Island, and it's there that Tomasina often catches a ferry further south to Horn Island before flying to the mainland to watch her son play.

The traditional headdress of Mukubi is seen tattooed on Mam's left thigh.

The image of the Torres Islands attire is an integral symbol to one half of his ancestral identity.

Mukubi has worn the piece while performing for an Indigenous dance troupe that his own grandparents founded, once taking their performance for a Broncos home game during an Indigenous round.

Mam, who famously as a face in the crowd once performed a traditional Torres Strait tribal reenactment ahead of an Indigenous All-Stars match prior to joining Brisbane, this year even imitated his dad's dance in front of the Brisbane City Hall clock tower.

There's also other tattoos that are less tribal and more personal.

His border collie Roscoe appears on his left arm while on his right is a pair of tiger's eyes.

Another one is a biblical passage albeit in a Torres dialect that is interpreted: "For with God nothing shall be impossible".

They are related to the way Mam plays the game.

The dog is about loyalty to his teammates, the tiger is about their instinct in pursuit of prey, while the religious line is self-explanatory over the 20-year-old's recent season.

And half way through that second half of the 2023 grand final, Mam was not only just a believer of the passage, but was ensuring it fulfilled a prophecy.

A career-high three tries, his side 16 points up and, so nearly, their first premiership in 17 years appeared to be proving that nothing was impossible.

Until Nathan Cleary woke up from his slumber and crossed for two of his own and set up a third to pinch the win in a thrilling 26-24 finish to the season.

Mam is leaving space for ink on the body for a commemorative Broncos premiership tattoo – in spite of the result of his last appearance on the biggest stage.

Not this year, and the wait may be just a little bit longer, but like his performances, he is half a chance to add onto his skin while Mam's guided by halfback teammate Adam Reynolds, who is covered in the artwork from head to toe.

Reynolds, who rejected a sizeable pay cut from South Sydney and joined Brisbane, has been there for the former Ambrose Treacy rugby school student since day one akin to a tattooed brother in arms – and legs, and nearly everywhere else.

The crafty halfback was the one who told Mam of his impending debut last year, even before coach Kevin Walters did.

"I don't think I even had boots," Mam also recalled for the Brisbane Times.

"They had ripped and I had to borrow a pair – I may have asked Tesi Niu for his boots. So I never expected to play.

"I only went down (to Newcastle) for the ride and expected to come back and play in (the Queensland) Cup.

"When Reyno got ruled out, he came over, shook my hand, and said, 'congrats', but I didn't believe him."

Mam immediately rang his dad, who lives in Brisbane, to tell him the shock selection.

The Indigenous Health Clinic employee left his job for the day, quickly packed his bag, and flew out on the first flight for Newcastle, arriving inside the Knights' ground even before he checked into the hotel for the night following the 36-12 victory.

Mam has come a long way since that day on round 11, 2022, which says a lot about what the Kuku Yalanji man, of North Queensland, has achieved in just 38 matches.

Three tries in his next three appearances displayed he was not afraid to run the ball.

But for the natural halfback-in-waiting, who appeared fearless from the first kickoff, it was more who was running back that forced Mam to create the brave illusion.

"Tyson Frizell ran at me all night (against Newcastle)," Mam continued.

"The following week it was David Fifita. A couple of weeks after that, it was Felise Kaufusi and I nearly died.

"I quickly realised the NRL was much tougher than I thought it would be."

Mam went away over summer of his first season, working away on his technique on his tackling, while also on having a greater physical presence around the fringes of the ruck.

He also went from the slight 79kg to a chunkier 87kg between seasons.

Not that the trained flutist needed to stand out from the crowd, but those tattoos are looking more intimidating now than ever before.


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