'Man-child' Fifita a key Broncos cog already: Ofahengaue
Joe Ofahengaue predicts 18-year-old "man-child" David Fifita will be a 200-game premiership player with the young back-rower now a key cog in Brisbane's drive to finish in the top four.
It is a prediction the Tongan international has made after watching Fifita play just five Telstra Premiership games after making his debut in round 16 against the Raiders.
Ofahengaue has known of the former Keebra Park High School student’s talents for years after watching him play schoolboy rugby league.
Fifita, who grew up in the same blue-collar Brisbane suburb of Inala that produced Anthony Milford, received his opportunity earlier than even he expected after the back-row stocks were depleted by a season-ending knee injury to Andre Savelio, compounded by Matt Gillett’s long-term absence with a fractured neck.
A subsequent injury to Jaydn Su’A (ankle), also season-ending, means Fifita is now a vital component of the Broncos' top 17 each week.
The Broncos re-signed Fifita until the end of 2020 last pre-season without him playing a single NYC, Intrust Super Cup or NRL game.
They knew they had a rare talent on their hands and two key performances by Fifita this year confirmed to coach Wayne Bennett that he was ready for the next step.
The first was in a pre-season match against the Titans where Fifita played 25 minutes off the bench and terrorised the Gold Coast with his running game, often requiring three or four defenders to bring him to ground.
The Broncos put Fifita on ice at the start of the season and he played under 18s for Souths-Logan until getting his Intrust Super Cup debut for the Magpies against the Mackay Cutters in round 11.
The following week he made 13 tackle breaks in an 80-minute display against the Ipswich Jets but it was his fourth Cup game against the Redcliffe Dolphins in a losing side that confirmed he was ready for the NRL.
Against a physical Dolphins pack the intense collisions that Fifita caused, sought and prospered from in another 80-minute performance resulted in him getting his NRL debut the following week against Canberra.
Fifita did not miss a tackle in his first two NRL games. His defensive clout in the 12-10 win over Cronulla, where he made 23 tackles for just two missed, was critical in the final outcome.
Ofahengaue said Fifita’s meteoric rise was "just crazy" considering he started the season in the under 18s.
"You hear about all these young backs making their debut a year out of high school but as a forward, it is pretty inspirational," he said.
"Twelve months ago David was in Year 12 and now he is playing NRL. It is a big positive for him, especially with his background coming out of Inala. That is a tough area and he has done pretty well. I watched a lot of him through school because he used to play against my brother and he was always a man-child.
"I think he can be a 200-plus game player. You have those players who are just natural footy players and I think Fifita and Kotoni [Staggs] are the same.
"[Fifita] is doing everything right to stay in the 17. He is pretty confident around the boys and not too shy, which is good."
Ofahengaue said the gritty win over the Sharks was the ideal prelude for the finals next month and an eye-opener for the younger players like Fifita.
"Getting through these five weeks is our main priority and if we can win four out of the next five it will set us on our goal of making the top four," he said leading into Thursday night's away clash with Canterbury.