Brenton Lawrence was released by Gold Coast but has proved to be an asset at Manly. Photo: Getty Images
This time last year Brenton Lawrence was wondering if he had a future in the NRL. Now he's just one game away from playing in a grand final.
Picked up by Manly after a release by Gold Coast, Lawrence (below) has proved one of the year's best signings. The fast 29-year-old prop averages more than 106 metres and 29 tackles a game and has been an uncompromising force in a Sea Eagles side that meets South Sydney in Friday's preliminary final.
Born in Mackay and raised in South Australia, Lawrence cut his teeth as a professional league player at Canberra but considers himself a New South Welshman.
As an 18-year-old he drove 14 hours for a trial with Canberra then got back back in his car to return home.
This dedication did not go unnoticed by the Raiders, who offered him a contract.
However, his early promise was never fulfilled and he drifted into the Canberra local competition, where he became captain-coach of the Woden Valley Rams before pitching up on the Gold Coast to play the Queensland Cup for Burleigh Bears.
His chance at the Titans came after he trained for free in the off-season before the 2011 campaign and made the team for the final nine games of a dismal year.
That failure sparked a heavy recruitment drive, ending Lawrence's hopes of firmly establishing himself at the club.
''But that's fine, there are no hard feelings … I've come here to Manly and I am making the most of it. Sometimes you get a crack, sometimes you don't. And now we're just one game from the GF. It's worked out better than I could have ever imagined.''