Joe Ofahengaue is determined to win a starting spot. Picture: AAP
Joe Ofahengaue is determined to win a starting spot. Picture: AAP

Ofahengaue primed to take on Pangai

THE battle for NRL starting spots will heat up from Monday, as all three Queensland clubs return this week for pre-season training.

The first wave of Cowboys and Titans players will hit the paddock while the Broncos will also welcome back a small group on Thursday.

It is understood it will mostly be new recruits and rookie players returning for the Cowboys and Broncos, aside from a few big names including North Queensland forward Coen Hess and injured Brisbane backrower Matt Gillett.

With a number of off-season changes for all three clubs, the battle for spots is set to spice up over the next few months.

The Cowboys have number of backline spots to fill following the retirements of star playmaker Johnathan Thurston and veteran winger Antonio Winterstein, plus the release of premiership duo Lachlan Coote and Kane Linnett.

The Titans have to lock in a new halves partner for Ash Taylor following the departure of Kane Elgey to Manly while the Broncos' biggest changes are expected to come in the engine room after the retirement of Sam Thaiday and the loss of Dragons-bound Korbin Sims.

Ofahengaue is keen to cement a starting berth. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Ofahengaue is keen to cement a starting berth. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Joe Ofahengaue is one frontrunner to earn a starting place in Brisbane's front row and he believes his biggest competition for that spot will be Tongan teammate Tevita Pangai Jr.

The duo are not expected back at Red Hill until early next month along with the rest of the club's representative players, but Ofahengaue said it was already a major goal of his to win that starting jersey.

"It will be up to me and Tevita to take that last starting position," he said.

"(Matt Lodge), he's earned his spot and I don't think (Josh McGuire) is going to move from lock so it will be between me and Tevita to get that starting spot.

"I know we're both hungry enough to play any position so it doesn't matter for us.

"If he's starting and I'm on the bench, it doesn't matter. If I'm starting and he's on the bench, it won't affect us. Right now, I just can't wait to get into pre-season."

Pangai Jr started the 2018 season in the front row for the Broncos but ended the year playing the majority of his games in the second row.

Big Joe has Tevita Pangai Jnr (pictured) in his sights. Picture: Getty
Big Joe has Tevita Pangai Jnr (pictured) in his sights. Picture: Getty

The Broncos will also welcome back promising young prop Payne Haas from a shoulder injury, with the teenage sensation expected to claim a regular bench spot with Brisbane.

Ofahengaue meanwhile was impressive for the Broncos in 2018 and was often rewarded with the opportunity to start, whether in the front row or at lock.

It was his best season to date and the 23-year-old is confident he can carry that form into 2019.

"The only thing that can (stop my form) is if it gets to my head and I can 100 per cent say nothing will get to my head," he said.

"I just went out there this year and played the footy I have wanted to play since the start. I had fun.

"That's the main thing for me is to have fun with the boys and keep earning the trust from the players."



IN COURT: 29 people appearing in Maclean court today

premium_icon IN COURT: 29 people appearing in Maclean court today

Here's a list of the people appearing in court today

PICTURES: Dramatic sea rescue off North Coast

premium_icon PICTURES: Dramatic sea rescue off North Coast

A 41-year-old man had to be winched off a cruise ship

TRAFFIC ALERT: Two-car crash on the Pacific Highway

TRAFFIC ALERT: Two-car crash on the Pacific Highway

Emergency services are making their way to the collision