Young gun Joe Ofahengaue set to be unloaded at Nines
BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett is set to unleash young bull Joe Ofahengaue in next month's Auckland Nines after being impressed by the teenage prop's pre-season progress.
Broncos insiders believe the cousin of rugby union's once feared Tongan Torpedo, Willie Ofahengaue, can push for an NRL debut next season under Bennett given his outstanding performances in last year's U20s competition.
The young gun chalked up 200m in Brisbane's two finals games, before they lost the season-decider 34-32 to the Warriors, storming back from being 30-0 down and having a try disallowed in the final minute.
At 112kg and 186cm, Ofahengaue is an intimidating sight for a 19-year-old, and is still growing and developing. Not only is he big, but he is also fast and mobile and getting stronger since doing a full pre-season with Brisbane's NRL side.
He can step at the line, chew up metres and off-load under pressure, all qualities Bennett will work on this season.
The master coach is understood to be very impressed with the teenager and believed to be considering rewarding him with a trip to New Zealand for the Auckland Nines (January 31-February 2).
The Broncos took some young players across the Tasman last year, including talented halfback Kody Nikorima who enjoyed a great tournament.
The club was also keen to give Ofahengaue a run, but he was deemed ineligible because of his age.
"We were keen on using him last year but couldn't give him a run because of the rules," Broncos chief executive Paul White said.
"The Nines is a wonderful concept and a chance for NRL clubs like ours to give emerging players a taste of first-grade football."
White said some players were naturally suited to Nines-style football.
"It's the quick, mobile, athletic blokes who are best suited to it," he said.
"The players love it, the fans love and it's fun and exciting. It's locked into New Zealand for a few more years but eventually it will be transportable and be shared around."
Meanwhile, Melbourne Storm has scored a coup, signing grand final-losing Bulldogs forward Dale Finucane to a three-year contract to help cover the retirement of Bryan Norrie at the end of 2015. Finucane, a former Junior Kangaroo, is only 23 but has played in two NRL grand finals and has almost 70 first-grade games under his belt.
"Dale is an ideal replacement and the type of player we like at the Storm. We actually spoke to him a few years ago about a potential move, so I'm glad he's finally made the decision to join us," coach Craig Bellamy said.