Reborn Queensland forward Joe Ofahengaue admitted he was shocked to earn a Maroons recall for Game I in his first season since splitting with the Broncos.
The 25-year-old was impressive in his first two games for Queensland in 2019, before a nasty leg cut ended his series and his form nosedived in his final year and a half at the Broncos.
Ofahengaue made the tough call to forego the final two years of his Broncos contract to start a fresh at the Tigers in Sydney and he hasn’t looked back.
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“I didn’t think about Origin. The only time I thought about it was when I said to myself if I get into this team then it is a bonus,” Ofahengaue told NRL.com.
“I said to myself I would focus on being consistent and enjoying footy again.
“That’s why when I got the call from [Queensland coach] Paul Green I was so shocked.”
The 117-game NRL star admitted it was tough to find his best footy during the Broncos’ turbulent 2020 season under Anthony Seibold and he didn’t feel up to Origin standard.
“Even if I was selected [for Queensland last year] I don’t think any of the players last year would have trusted me because of the way we were going and the way I was playing,” Ofahengaue said.
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“Sometimes I questioned my ability.”
However an honesty session with his father and his partner Sofi set Ofahengaue on the path to rebuilding his rugby league career and his reputation.
“I could have stayed. [Broncos coach] Kevvie [Walters] would have put up with it but I know it wouldn’t have been the best thing for me,” Ofahengaue said.
“I had a contract there for two extra years, they would have paid me that money and I still would have been playing NRL but it would not have been the right decision for me.
“I went home and had a conversation with my dad and missus, it opened me up to thinking I needed a fresh start.
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“I know a lot of people wouldn’t have had the guts to do it but I backed myself and made the decision to move to the Tigers and it has worked out for me.”
However after losing his place in the Queensland side first due to injury and then form, Ofahengaue is hellbent on making the most of his second chance in the Origin arena.
“I worked my butt off this pre-season, doing all the little things, I stripped it all back,” he said.
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“It was like falling in love with the process again, trying to get better every day.
“Madge [Tigers coach Michael Maguire] and the coaching staff were a big part of developing my game, really encouraging, made me use my skill again rather than just a straight up and down front-row/lock.
“[But] I knew one day I would get a [Origin] recall, that’s how much confidence I had to get back into this arena.
“Once you get a call that you are playing for Queensland you just want more – it’s such a great team with such a great history.”
Originally published as‘Don’t think the players would have trusted me’: Maroons star ‘shocked’ over Origin recall
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