Ofahengaue reveals mental struggles
Recalled Brisbane Broncos forward Joe Ofahengaue has revealed the mental struggles he suffered after being dropped to the Intrust Super Cup in 2016.
Ofahengaue burst onto the scene in 2015, making his debut as a highly fancied 19-year-old prop destined for big things.
It was a standout first year in the NRL, with his young body handling the step-up from Holden Cup to first grade better than first expected.
But in 2016 the dreaded second year syndrome took its toll and suddenly Ofahengaue found himself in an unfamiliar position at the club.
Always touted as the best of Brisbane's young forwards, a shocking performance in the Broncos' 36-18 loss to the New Zealand Warriors in Round 13 saw the Tongan international dropped the following week.
Ofahengaue was promoted from the bench in the lead up to that match, starting at prop for the first time in his NRL career.
But the pressure got to the young forward, with Ofahengaue failing to have a carry in the match and therefore making zero metres.
It saw him slip behind some other young names in the Broncos squad, with the likes of Tevita Pangai Junior and Herman Ese'ese overtaking him in the pecking order.
Ofahengaue returned to Brisbane's side in Round 17 but that was only one of four more games he played in first grade that year.
Now back in favour with coach Wayne Bennett in 2017, Ofahengaue has taken time to reflect on the lowest point of his short career.
"It's the same if you ask anyone... being dropped from the team you want to play for and going back to reserve grade hits you really hard," Ofahengaue said.
"You carry the embarrassment on your shoulders. You think you've let your family down and your teammates down. That part of it really hit me hard.
"You don't feel the same at the club when you're playing Queensland Cup instead of NRL.
"For me personally when I'm playing NRL I feel like I'm contributing to the club... It wasn't the same in the reserves."
Ofahengaue's poor performances on the field translated to struggles off it, with his mental wellbeing struggling under the pressure he was putting on himself.
It soon impacted his family life, but to his credit the young forward recognised there was an issue.
After making adjustments to his way of thinking, Ofahengaue worked to get the better of the black cloud hanging over his head and he told NRL.com he was now experiencing one of the happiest times of his life.
"I had some personal issues going on. Being dropped kind of compounded that," he said.
"I wasn't really talking to anyone. But when I decided to open up it helped me.
"My missus and I finally got on top of what I was dealing with and it all got sorted out. Right now I'm in a happy place and I hope it stays that way."
There is no guarantee Ofahengaue will stay in the Broncos' 17 with Arrow and Pangai Junior set to return in the near future, but that doesn't faze him like it once would.
If anything the competition now encourages Ofahengaue to make most of his time on the footy field and do something that is so easily forgotten in such a high-pressure environment – have fun.
"It's great to be going out there and having fun. Last year I was more worried about being on the team rather than enjoying my footy," he said.
"It took me to a dark place. I didn't go well when that happened. My form slumped. But I'm in a good spot now. It's good to be back in the 17."