Brisbane prop Joe Ofahengaue can make a compelling case for Queensland Origin selection against the form Canberra Raiders pack on Sunday.
In the absence of the suspended Tevita Pangai jnr and injured Matt Lodge the 23-year-old Tongan international will lead the Broncos middle forward rotation when he starts against the Raiders.
Ofahengaue was brought into Maroons camp last year and wants to represent Queensland in this year’s series.
Coach Kevin Walters and his fellow selectors want to have the headache of who to leave out rather than who to put in. Right now, not enough prospective middle forwards are bashing down the door for selection, or re-selection, in the Queensland side.
Raiders prop Josh Papalii and Titans lock Jai Arrow have started the season strongly and are on track to retain their jerseys.
Canterbury prop Dylan Napa started to hit his straps before a syndesmosis injury ruled him out until round 10.
Ofahengaue, who is averaging 123.6m and 26.6 tackles per game this year, will fight it out with the likes of Jarrod Wallace, Matt Scott, Tim Glasby and Christian Welch for Queensland selection but needs to put in dominant displays in the next month to make his debut.
He said it would mean "everything" to wear the Maroons jersey this year.
"As a kid I used to watch GI [Greg Inglis] and Locky [Darren Lockyer] play. I was in primary school and high school when they won eight [series] straight so to wear the jersey would be everything for me," he said.
"I got to finally meet Billy [Slater] and see how they were in camp [last year] and they were obviously really professional and take that back to their clubs.
"It is a goal [to represent Queensland] but I just need to get the ball rolling here and focus on Broncs footy. Hopefully that all comes off the back of it."
Ofahengaue said mixing it with Papalii on Sunday would be "a big challenge" on a personal note and added and that "doing all the little things right and making him tackle as much as I can" would be vital.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has shown great faith in 19-year-old forwards Payne Haas and David Fifita by starting them against the Raiders at prop and lock respectively.
Both were among Brisbane’s best in the 22-16 loss to the Tigers last week with Haas making a stunning 167m and 45 tackles. Fifita showed excellent game awareness to grubber for himself and almost regather to score, and set up Kodi Nikorima for a try with a slick offload.
"I think it is just a lot of confidence with those two," Ofahengaue said.
"David put that chip through for himself last week and Payne is a big fella with a massive engine. The way he plays, he just goes. There is no pull-back. Last week shows how much potential he has in the NRL.
"I know that giving them more minutes this week will be good for them, and I’m excited for them. If they are looking to me for guidance, I can do that for them. If they want to go out and play, I’ll just let them play. I’m just excited to work with them and get the ball rolling.”
The Broncos have identified Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson as the mastermind behind most of Canberra’s creative play and limiting his impact will be crucial if they are to break a three-game losing streak.
"He’s a bit like [Robbie] Farah. When they are inside the ten metre zone they do what they like pretty much so we’ve got to try and make him tackle as much as we can and keep the footy out of his hands,” Ofahengaue said.
"He’s a real X factor player for them and one of our threats this week."