State of Origin can make or break a player’s season and Broncos lock forward Joe Ofahengaue has thrived on the back of his Queensland debut. Now he wants a birthday present from Parramatta.
Broncos lock forward Joe Ofahengaue has opened up about his post-Origin Red Hill return that helped launch the club to an end-of-season form surge.
Ofahengaue – who will celebrate his 24th birthday by running on to Bankwest Stadium on Sunday – will make a welcome return to the Broncos this weekend after sitting out the past fortnight with a calf injury.
Sunday’s clash with Parramatta will be the most important game of the Broncos season, with a loss sending the visitors home with nothing more than Mad Monday preparations.
Ofahengaue made it through training at Red Hill on Wednesday without any concerns and should line up in the No.13 jersey for his birthday date with the Eels.
Brisbane’s turbulent start to the season, and their 2-6 win-loss record after Round 8, sparked fears at Red Hill they were in for their first finals omission since 2013.
But an end-of-season form revival helped the Broncos claim eighth spot to keep their slim premiership-winning hopes alive.
The Broncos have tasted defeat in just three from nine games post-Origin, including last weekend’s 30-14 loss to the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
Despite that defeat, the Brisbane forward pack has stood tall.
Fox Sports Lab statistics show Ofahengaue has averaged 103 running metres and a tackle break per game since making his Origin debut in June.
After being inducted on to Suncorp Stadium’s Walk of Fame earlier this week, Ofahengaue said he took it upon himself to keep up the workload when he made his return to Red Hill.
“I just didn’t want to come back to the club and get ahead of myself,” Ofahengaue said.
“It’s been a crazy year and a crazy season for us. I just didn’t want come back to the club thinking I’ll leave it up to everyone else.
“We’ve got players around us like Payne Haas and Matt Lodge who you can just give the ball to and they can do anything.
“I just wanted to come back to the club knowing the team had confidence in me to do my job every week to the best of my ability.
“That’s hopefully what I’ve been doing.”
Ofahengaue will go head to head with Parramatta bruiser Nathan Brown, who will return from suspension for Sunday’s clash.
Former premiership-winning lock forward Corey Parker said Ofahengaue’s finals experience would be a huge boost for the team this weekend.
“He’s got to be a mainstay of the Brisbane pack and the Queensland pack,” Parker said.
“He’s got a big engine, a bit like Payne Haas.
“People forget that he’s played in a grand final and several finals since so that experience is invaluable for the guys who haven’t played finals footy.
“He’ll help steer the engine room of that Broncos pack this weekend.”