Joe Ofahengaue on the charge for the Broncos. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Joe Ofahengaue on the charge for the Broncos. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Ofahengaue to pick Maroons over Tonga

YOUNG Broncos forward Joe Ofahengaue says he will play for Queensland over Tonga if he is forced into a selection dilemma next week.

Ofahengaue has been one of the standouts for Brisbane this year, stepping up alongside Tevita Pangai Jr to prove the younger pack are a force to be reckoned with.

He was again one of the Broncos' best in their disappointing loss to the Storm on Sunday, and his form has not gone unnoticed by Queensland selectors.

Gene Miles was the first to bring Ofahengaue's name into the selection conversation ahead of Origin I and fellow Maroons selector Darren Lockyer agreedt he is a contender for a game two debut.

However, Ofahengaue is of Tongan descent and has played for the second-tier nation three times in the past, including during last year's World Cup campaign.

Tonga will play Samoa on the same stand-alone weekend as Origin II and Ofahengaue is expected to be selected by coach Kristian Woolf.

Origin football is too big to turn down. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Origin football is too big to turn down. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

While he is adamant he is not turning his back on the Mate Ma'a, Ofahengaue said he would not pass up the opportunity to play for Queensland if both teams came knocking.

"It's a no-brainer," he said of his possible selection dilemma.

"Everyone knows Queensland and Origin is the top of our sport and it's the game everyone wants to play.

"If I was get to picked (for Queensland) over Tonga, I would pick Origin but I am still loyal to Tonga.

"I'm still available for Tonga and I want to keep it that way. This is the reason why they changed the rules for us second tier nations. It would be stupid to not make myself available."

Ofahengaue has been a bright spot for the Broncos. (Annette Dew)
Ofahengaue has been a bright spot for the Broncos. (Annette Dew)

Ofahengaue was born in Auckland but moved to Australia at a young age and played his junior rugby league for Ipswich Brothers.

The Queensland selectors proved they considered him a serious contender ahead of Game One, when he spent time in Maroons camp alongside fellow development players Anthony Milford, Jaydn Su'A, Moses Mbye, Dale Copley and Brenko Lee.

"It was everything I expected," Ofahengaue said of his time in Origin camp.

"Just to meet the boys and be around the professional players and stars of our game, it was a good experience for myself.

"It would just mean the world (to debut). It's been a childhood dream since I moved here.

"If I get to throw on that Queensland jersey, I wouldn't take it for granted and hopefully I could cement myself in that team."

Ofahengaue was again named on the bench for Brisbane ahead of Saturday's clash with the Sharks.

Roberts’ return will be a timely boost. (Annette Dew)
Roberts’ return will be a timely boost. (Annette Dew)

Coach Wayne Bennett made just one change to the line-up that lost to the Storm, with centre James Roberts (Achilles) to return this weekend.

Ofahengaue said he wasn't necessarily playing with Queensland or Tongan selection in mind, just to help lift the Broncos above eighth place on the ladder.

"I'm doing everything I can to make this team better," he said.

"All of us young forwards are buying into that this year, and whatever comes off the back of that is a reward. If I do earn a (Queensland) jersey by doing my job, I'll be happy."