Ipswich stars to tackle NSW
THERE may be no Walters or Langers playing for the Maroons in tomorrow night's State of Origin 2.
But the curtainraiser between Queensland and NSW under 18s will feature two Ipswich representatives.
Former St Peter Claver College students Joe Ofahengaue and Ellery Tusa will line up for the Maroons with Ofahengaue hoping to right a wrong from last year.
That is representing Queensland Schoolboys at the national titles he did not get the chance to play in the final, which featured two NSW teams.
Prop Ofahengaue has been playing for the Brisbane Broncos in the Toyota Cup (National Under 20) competition.
Centre Tusa is part of the Melbourne Storm under-20 squad and has been playing for Easts in the Queensland FOGS Colts comp.
For 17-year-old Ofahengaue, the second youngest in the Broncos U20 squad, this year has been a tough learning curve.
His happiness at his own progression has been dampened by the Broncos poor run in the Toyota Cup, in which they sit ninth.
"There's a lack of attitude from the team," he said.
Despite that, Ofahengaue has been doing his best and is keen to stick around next year to ensure things get better.
"I've come out of my shell the last couple of games," he said.
"I've learnt just to be tougher this year. I learned that in the pre-season in opposed sessions with the NRL boys.
"I reckon this is a big learning year. Because we're a really young side it will be a good experience for next year."
Former St Peter Claver College schoolboys coach of the pair Todd Riggs is not surprised either have been picked. "How driven they are to compete is their biggest attribute," Riggs said.
"Jo is a very charismatic bloke.
"He is one of those guys with gifted ability with the football.
"Ellery gets in the grind. He hates losing."
Joe is grateful to have long-time friend Tusa alongside him as the Maroon U18s line-up against NSW.
"It's real good," he said. "I've grown up with Ellery.
"He lives up the road.
"He's quick and his strength on the edge will be dangerous.
"He's a real smart player."
For the versatile Ofahengaue, who can also play lock or centre, tomorrow night will be simple.
"I just want to give it to them and go as hard as I can," he said.
Ofahengaue was contracted to the Sydney Roosters last year but is much more comfortable with the Broncos, which enables him to remain at the family home at Collingwood Park.
"I was going to re-sign (with the Roosters)," he said. "But I didn't want to move away from my family."