Junior Kangaroo strongman eyes spot in Broncos 2015 NRL team
PROUD AUSSIES: Joe Ofahengaue and Brett Greinke before the Junior Kangaroos' Test against the Junior Kiwis in Auckland last Saturday. Contributed
PLAYING in the under-20 rugby league Test in Auckland has capped a remarkable year for Ipswich league prodigy Joe Ofahengaue.
The Collingwood Park-based 19-year-old was nursing a sore shoulder yesterday but has two weeks to recuperate before starting Brisbane Broncos' pre-season training.
He is likely to need it after a season that saw him named national under-20 competition (Holden Cup) player of the season, play in the under-20 grand final for the Broncos and then represent the Junior Kangaroos.
The Junior Kangaroos went down 15-14 on Saturday night in a match that threatened to explode even before the kick-off.
Players from both teams had to be pried apart by officials as the Kiwis completed the haka, but Ofahengaue said he was inspired by it.
"That didn't intimidate any of our team," Ofahengaue said.
"It was a good experience to come up against passion like that.
"The Kiwis love it and I love it."
Not surprisingly, the match that followed was brutal but Ofahengaue relished it.
"It was good," Ofahengaue said.
"It was fun but tough.
"It's good coming up against very tough opposition like the Kiwis.
"We all knew we had to bring something else because it was an elite game.
"It was the best two countries and the best two groups of 20-year-olds."
Ofahengaue was reluctant to praise his own performance but said fellow Ipswich product Brett Greinke had a fine game in the back row.
"I played the best I could," Ofahengaue said.
"Brett was good for us.
"Everyone played tough."
Ofahengaue was "really gutted" to lose by the one point.
Especially because the Kiwis benefited from some home town decisions.
"I watched the replay this morning," Ofahengaue said.
"They scored two dodgy tries."
But it couldn't take away the satisfaction of a stellar season personally.
Ofahengaue admitted he exceeded his own expectations.
"My main goal was to be consistent and be a real team player and a leader for my team," he said.
He did that and more.
His performance in the Holden Cup grand final, leading what would have been a remarkable Broncos' comeback, was inspirational.
"It's been a great year and I've got to move forward now," he said.
"I was shocked to be player of the year. There's a lot of standout players in our competition."
- Pre-Test meal: "Fruit and a toasty".
- Pre-game ritual: "I get my wrists strapped. On my left wrist I wrap one strap of black tape. On my right wrist, I wrap double straps of black tape. It's something I've done since I was young. It gives me strength. It's all a mental thing. I also smell my jersey before I put it on."
- National honour: Ofahengaue admits there was nothing quite like smelling his brand new Australian jersey. "It was awesome, man. I can't explain the feeling I got."