Broncos rookie draws heady comparisons
He may not be unique but Broncos debutant Joe Ofahengaue's aerobic capacity has been compared to some of the greatest forwards to ever pull on the Brisbane jersey ahead of his debut against the Sharks on Friday night.
The nephew of rugby union great Willie Ofahengaue, 19-year-old Joe's mountainous frame is powered by an equally large motor gained from punishing time trials with his father as a teenager near their home in Ipswich.
NRL.com revealed in January that the Ofahengaue name means 'love to work' and was bestowed initially upon his great grandfather by a Tongan priest, Joe now proudly sporting a tattoo of the family name on his left forearm.
As one of the Broncos' most outstanding performers in their charge to the Holden Cup Grand Final last year, Ofahengaue's prospects of an NRL call-up in 2015 appeared strong despite his youth and Bennett's insistence he needed a year in the Intrust Super Cup.
With James Gavet copping a three-week suspension out of the Round 1 loss to the Rabbitohs and Mitchell Dodds unavailable due to a calf injury, Ofahengaue has been rushed into the 17 on the back of his display against Wigan in the World Club Series.
"I think Wigan was a big occasion for him. They physically got amongst him when he first went on there and he responded really good to it so I've got no fears for him," Bennett said.
"It will be in and out for him this year, he won't become a regular but he's on the journey to becoming an NRL player here and that's what we want for him.
"He could play 10 or 12 games for us this year but he's not going to play 23, I know that much.
"I just know that they're young and they're vulnerable and the longer we keep him up over a long period of time the more vulnerable he is to serious injury."
Ofahengaue's ability to get through mountains of work has impressed coaches and senior players at the club over the past two NRL pre-seasons but Bennett refuted the suggestion that ability was unique, instead comparing him to three Broncos greats.
"I don't think he's unique. I've coached Brad Thorn and Shane Webcke, Andrew Gee, so I don't think he's unique but he's good," said Bennett, who added that all three legends had similar aerobic capacity at such a young age.
"He plays the toughest position on the field and his body needs to mature into that and so does his mind.
"It's a process, I've done it with a lot of them so I know how it works, he's just got to have faith and confidence in what we do here."
Along with Ofahengaue, Kodi Nikorima will make his NRL debut off the bench and their coach is excited to see them step up in the Telstra Premiership for the first time.
"It's always nice to see them get an opportunity, yeah. I just want to see them nail it; that will be nicer," said Bennett of their debuts.
"I've got 40 players in the squad here and they're all over the age of 21 except two of them so I need to see what they can do and you're not going to get that until they get in the NRL and get that pressure that can only happen there."