Big Joe has family in his heart ahead of grand final decider
FAMILY, where life begins and love never ends.
Those are the words that are written with care on the wall of the living room when you walk into the Ofahengaue family home at Collingwood Park.
One thing you can be certain of is that when big Joe Ofahengaue runs out for the Broncos against the Warriors in Sunday's Under 20s grand final at ANZ Stadium he will have his loving family in his heart.
And he will be in their hearts too.
When the QT arrived yesterday to speak to the 19-year-old prop about his date with destiny it seemed as though all the Ofahengaues on the planet were there to support him.
Joe, the nephew of former Wallaby star Willie Ofanhenague, was chased by many of the elite rugby schools to play for them and had a scholarship offer on the table from Churchie.
But his father Josh says the decision to send his son locally to St Peter Claver College for his senior years was the right one.
"We are from a rugby union family. From the family point of view I wanted him to follow Willie's ways," Josh says.
"But Joe has always been a family man. He loves his mum...and loves his brothers and sister.
"Away from them, it wasn't going to happen for Joe.
"We turned the scholarship down because he wanted to play rugby league. We wanted to make sure that he is happy."
St Peter Claver College, where Joe was school captain, is noted for its outstanding development of league players and is also highly regarded for its academic standards and support.
Joe's mum Kathy said his initial grounding at St Edmund's College had also "provided great support and great ethics and instilled all the things that we were promoting as a family".
"It really strengthened his commitment to working hard to achieve something," she says.
Her son has certainly done that, on the field and off it.
Joe, who has four brothers and one sister, credits mum Kathy and dad Josh for keeping him on the right path.
Josh says that his son has made their task easy.
"I am really proud of Joe," Josh says.
"The good thing about Joe is that not only does he listen, but he also puts in the hard work."
And hard work is something Joe did plenty of when he trained with the Broncos top squad in the pre-season where he was inspired by the example set by some of the game's biggest names.
It is the intense fitness work under head trainer Alex Corvo that has helped him fire at the back end of this season.
"I was in the same gym group as Sam Thaiday and Ben Hannant," Joe says.
"Sam said to me that pre-season was all about surviving...and it was tough.
"Alex Corvo has got to be the best trainer.
"We did a lot of hill running. The wrestling was a good 45 minute session where we were flat out hitting each other.
"It has helped me mentally. Last year I wasn't as stable with my mentality going into games.
"But getting whacked around (in pre-season) by blokes like Marty Kennedy, Josh McGuire and David Hala has helped me physically going into games.
"I understand more about how 20s games work now. I just feel comfortable about doing my job in the middle and leaving all the fancy work to the backs."
Joe put in a strong performance in the 24-16 preliminary final win over the Dragons to qualify for the grand final.
If he can be part of the first Broncos side to win an under 20s title on Sunday he will be thanking his family for their support.
"My family plays a big part in who I am today and everything I do," Joe says.
"They are always in my mind. They remind me to be humble.
"Everything I do, is for them."
*See tomorrow's sports section of the QT for more on Joe and the under 20s grand final.