David Mead was as surprised to be wearing Brisbane colours this year as onlookers were to spot him at Red Hill.
But after jumping at the offer to return to the Broncos after three years in France with Catalans, he’s eager to prove himself worthy and make a difference at an NRL club in need.
The 32-year-old spent eight seasons on the Gold Coast before moving to the Broncos and then heading to the English Super League in 2018.
A veteran of three World Cups with Papua New Guinea, Mead can now follow players like Ryan Hoffman, Blake Green and even Broncos great Allan Langer in making a successful NRL return following a northern hemisphere stint.
“That’s a huge motivation for me,” he said of the chance to prove he can still excel in the NRL.
“The way everything happened with COVID, I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity, even though I’d always wanted to play in the NRL again.
“I couldn’t believe when the opportunity came about, but now I’m here I want to earn my spot.
“The intensity (of NRL) looks to have picked up with the six-again rule came in and it looks more physical and faster; I’m looking forward to it.”
He is one of just three new faces at the club, with fellow veteran back Dale Copley and utility forward John Asiata both providing similar levels of maturity and experience to a side that stooped to historic lows last season.
Mead could provide handy cover for star centre Kotoni Staggs, who won’t return from an ACL tear until the back-end of this season.
Brisbane were woeful last year, losing all but one of their last 18 games in the COVID-19 impacted season that saw the exit of coach Anthony Seibold.
Much the same squad has been asked to show plenty more in 2021 under Walters and a new-look support staff.
“You can just feel there’s a willingness to improve, that hunger there to compete,” Mead said.
“In France it is still there, but you feel it when you come back as soon as you walk through the door.”