Bennett: give Joe a go for Qld
RUGBY LEAGUE: Wayne Bennett says Joe Ofahengaue is ready for State of Origin after watching the Broncos prop produce a brutal form surge amid the most harrowing ordeal of his rugby league career.
As Ofahengaue’s partner wages a battle with breast cancer, the Bronco will continue his quest for a maiden Queensland jumper in tomorrow night’s clash against the Sharks in Sydney.
The Maroons team for Origin II is named on Monday and Ofahengaue has emerged as a game two bench bolter after charging for a total of 1097m in his past nine matches for the Broncos.
If anyone is qualified to assess an Origin player, it is Bennett. He served three terms as Queensland coach, masterminding the side’s first 3-0 clean sweep of NSW in 1988.
With Queensland on the hunt for size and aggression after a midfield mauling in the MCG opener, Bennett believes Ofahengaue’s 114kg frame and fitness can make him the Maroons’ interchange X-factor.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters will be at Southern Cross Group Stadium tomorrow night when Ofahengaue confronts Cronulla’s Origin forward quartet Andrew Fifita, Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Wade Graham.
“Joe would handle Origin,” Bennett said.
“If his form has been good in the NRL, he’s been doing it at club level against NSW Origin players so that’s good enough for me to get into Origin.”
The best form of Ofahengaue’s 59-game NRL career has coincided with the heartbreak of his long-time girlfriend Sofi Leota receiving a cancer diagnosis in April.
Ofahengaue has used Leota’s brave battle as inspiration not to waste an NRL career that threatened to go off the rails when he was overlooked for Broncos selection for the first two months of last season.
Bennett said Ofahengaue’s form reversal could be attributed to feeling part of the team.
“He just needed time to feel he was part of the team. I’m really pleased for him,” he said.