Ofahengaue rockets into Maroons frame: Miles
Brisbane Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue has rocketed into the frame for Queensland Maroons selection on the back of a month of powerhouse displays off the bench.
Maroons chairman of selectors Gene Miles told NRL.com that Broncos forwards Korbin Sims and Jaydn Su'A were also in the mix while veteran Maroons stalwart Sam Thaiday is not out of the picture either.
Miles also told reporters at a Queensland Maroons media session on Thursday that St George Illawarra half Ben Hunt was the front-runner to edge out Michael Morgan for the number seven jersey.
"Anyone that hasn't been impressed with [Hunt's] form in the first nine rounds is pretty hard to please," Miles said.
"Although he only had a very short stint [off the bench] last year in Game Three for us, he has done everything right and I just hope he stays healthy and continues that winning form because it is very hard to ignore."
The 22-year-old Ofahengaue played for Tonga in last year's World Cup where he was a key member of the island nation's semi-final surge.
Ofahengaue has eligibility for Tonga and the Maroons and played in the Kevin Walters-coached Queensland under 20s side in 2014.
He has impressed selectors with his development this season which culminated in a dynamic display against the Canterbury Bulldogs last week where his late try gave the Broncos the opportunity to win the game late on.
The Maroons have injury concerns in the forwards with Matt Gillett out of action for Game One of the Holden State of Origin series in Melbourne with a neck injury and Josh McGuire (ankle) and Tim Glasby (broken thumb) both racing the clock.
Miles said Ofahengaue had put himself right in the frame for a Glasby-type role off the bench
"Joe has been very impressive coming off the bench for the Broncos and is making an impact every time," Miles told NRL.com.
"He's playing that role to perfection and he's being very closely monitored to have that same role at Origin level. That's how impressive he has been. We need some big boppers on the bench."
Ofahengaue is not the only Broncos forward being watched closely by Queensland selectors. Bench forward Sims and back-rower Su'A, who once captained the Queensland under 20s, are also putting their best foot forward. Su'A reminds Miles of former Maroons hitman Ben Te'o.
"Jaydn can play 80 minutes too if called upon. He's nice and tough and can play in the middle and on the edge," Miles told NRL.com.
"Joe and Korbin are both doing their bench role for Wayne [Bennett] and they may not enjoy it because they are not starting, but they have perfected the role that they are doing and making an impact.
"The bench players play an extremely role, especially at that [Origin] level, and Korbin should target one of those bench roles and keep doing what he has been.
"Those three [Broncos forwards] are untried at that level but they are obviously doing everything they can to get tried at that level.
"The Broncos are benefiting, slowly but surely, as they are working out their best 17 and what role those guys play."
Sims said he "hopefully" would get his own chance to play Origin football.
"That is the pinnacle I am looking for at the moment, that Origin spot," he said.
"I have to take care of my position week-in and week-out for the Broncos and then if Kevvie [Walters] notices me taking care of myself here in clubland I'm sure I'll be in contention later on.
"With the injury front... I think that is where Kevvie might look back to a Sammy Thaiday for those sort of situations."
Miles said selectors had not put a line through Thaiday.
"We won't rule that out at all. Sam is still playing first grade and a front-row position which is action packed," Miles said.
"Sam is well and truly in the mix."
The Broncos continue to be a vital conduit to the Maroons team and Miles wants that to continue.
"That's been the case for 30 years. We need the Broncos firing," Miles said.
"At one stage they were supplying 10 or 11 players to the team."
With regard to Hunt and Morgan's credentials Miles said "one will wear the seven and one will wear the 14".
"Michael has done the 14 role for us remarkably over his term. He started last year at left centre [in Game Three] and did a fantastic job and his versatility is great," Miles said.
"I'm pretty sure he would love to have the number seven on his back but he will do a role if he's not chosen there and Ben is given the role."
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Tickets available at NRL.com/tickets.