Jed Holloway grew up watching Wycliff Palu and now the NSW number eight finds himself in the bizarre position of trying to keep his idol out of a starting gig.
Holloway would likely have had the first crack at number eight had a late change of fortune not brought Wycliff Palu back to NSW for another season, but instead he finds himself in a back row battle.
“(I’m) just focusing on myself and focusing on what I need to do because I never really guaranteed myself for that position at all,” he said.
“Nothing's guaranteed in this game and I’ve learnt that over the last three years so I've just got to work hard at what I do.
The 23-year-old could be considered the incumbent after a standout performance against the Reds and Holloway said he wouldn’t be relinquishing his hold on the number eight spot easily.
“I’m too competitive to let someone take that back but it’s Cliff's had a huge influence on my game personally and on the way I look at rugby and he’s always someone i looked up to,” he said.
“The whole time I’ve been playing Rugby I’ve been watching Cliffy so just to have that opportunity and that number eight jersey is a pretty big moment for me.
“I’m looking to really running with that and keep my hands on it hopefully.”
Holloway watched on as a teenager as Wycliff Palu steamrolled opponents and it’s the combativeness of Palu and other old school number eights that inspired him.
“He’s been known for his physicality throughout for so many years now,” he said.
“Watching him I’ve just really enjoyed the way he’s played and always loved great number eights like Toutai Kefu even though he was at the Queensland Reds.
“Cliffy also when I’ve been playing, he’s someone I’ve looked up to and really respected and he’s had a great influence on my rugby personally."
Holloway will have his first crack at the Brumbies’ intimidating back row on Friday night, a challenge that is one of the most difficult in Super Rugby.
While he and his backrow teammates are yet to fully dissect the challenge, Holloway said they knew it would be a step up.
“We haven’t had that conversation but David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Ita Vaea - they’re a strong back row,” he said.
“We've got to be at the top of our game and really focus on what we need to bring to that table to erase them from the game.”