Blair's tip to fill Broncos' front row hole
Veteran forward Adam Blair has tipped Joe Ofahengaue to emerge from a pack of young hopefuls to partner him in Brisbane's front row when Round 1 kicks off against the Sharks in six weeks' time.
Despite Wayne Bennett's insistence that he would have to bide his time after graduating from the under-20s Ofahengaue made his NRL debut in 2015 and went on to play 14 matches, including the Telstra Premiership Grand Final against the Cowboys.
He started in the front row twice in 16 games last season and is on track to get first crack against Cronulla, unless reports that the Broncos could lure Korbin Sims away from Newcastle prove to be correct.
With the likelihood of Josh McGuire moving into the lock forward position following the retirement of Corey Parker and Jarrod Wallace's departure to the Titans, Blair is the only recognised front rower with at least 80 games to his name but believes Ofahengaue can step up to the mark in 2017.
"Joe Ofahengaue has been in and out of grade we need him to step up again this year and from what I've heard he's been working really hard," said Blair, with Tevita Pangai, Herman Ese'ese, Francis Molo and Salesi Funaki also in the mix.
"Joe's really fit and one of our fittest boys that can play 80 minutes. Whether he does it is another thing because the game has changed a lot now and there are a lot of boys that could push for that spot."
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett has been conscious of the inexperience coming off the interchange bench in the two seasons since his return to Red Hill and now desperately needs players he has blooded to become established first-graders.
Ofahengaue, Pangai, Ese'ese, Jai Arrow, Jaydn Su'a and Joe Boyce have all made their Broncos debuts in the past two seasons and Blair says that the team needs them to play a more prominent role this year in order to push deep into September.
"Most of them had a taste of grade last year so we'll be looking for them to be able to put their hand up," Blair said.
"Obviously pre-season has been pretty tough for the boys and they've been training really well. Those boys are going to have to put their hands up again and we're going to have to make them feel part of the team.
"We've got a lot of boys that could play good minutes and for us it's about making sure our middle boys who are coming off the bench are working hard together.
"I think that's where we may have struggled a little bit, just after half-time or the back-end so it's about making sure we have some experienced boys there helping out the boys that we need there."