Queensland Maroons legend Nate Myles would no doubt be nodding his head in approval at Queensland selectors’ decision to recall Joe Ofahengaue and give Christian Welch a State of Origin debut in the series decider at ANZ Stadium tomorrow.
The duo share the same 'roll the sleeves up, get the job done' philosophy the no nonsense Myles showcased throughout his stellar Maroons career.
There is an argument to be made that the Maroons lost last year’s Origin series in the opening 30 minutes of Game I in Melbourne.
It was a new look New South Wales side and Queensland had the opportunity to assert themselves early in the middle of the park, but they didn’t.
The same pattern unfolded in Origin II in Perth this year in the 38-6 loss. Queensland failed to dominate the early exchanges and were unable to rectify that imbalance as the game unfolded.
That is why Queensland selectors recalled Ofahengaue and elevated Welch for what looms as one of the most important games in Origin history.
The duo do not boast the ball playing skills or flair of a player like NSW’s Jake Trbojevic. That style of play will not be expected of them either.
What the Maroons will want out of Ofahengaue and Welch is a Myles type of performance.
When books to celebrate 40 years of the Maroons no doubt hit the shelves next year, Myles should feature as one of Queensland’s unsung heroes in Origin footy.
He’s not unsung within the Maroons' inner sanctum though.
Myles played 32 Origin games for Queensland between 2006 and 2017 and the last 11 of them as a starting prop. He wasn’t flashy, but he was fearless and a genuine warrior in the Origin cauldron. Ask Queensland players who they valued in their team up front during that decade of dominance and Myles' name is always mentioned.
In camp before Origin I, Josh McGuire had this to say about him.
"I love Nate. He is my favourite Origin player of all time," McGuire said.
"He led by example with everything he did. If I can be known as a team member who did everything he could for his teammates and people enjoyed playing with, like Nate was, then I will retire a happy man. Some guys are built for Origin and Nate definitely was."
Welch, who stands at 195cm and weighs in at 110 kilograms, is cut from the same cloth in that players love to line up alongside him.
His statistics tell only part of the story, although they are impressive enough. The 24-year-old will likely come off the bench for the Maroons as he mostly does for Melbourne Storm. This year he’s played around 40 minutes each game in the NRL and averages 113 metres and 22 tackles. He rarely misses, as evidenced by his 90 per cent tackle efficiency rate.
When Welch runs out on Wednesday night you can be certain his teammates will be confident he can do the business, even those who are yet to play alongside him.
Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans had this to say about him on Monday.
"He's going to come 100 miles an hour. There's not many effort areas in the game that Christian Welch doesn't do and that has been noticeable in the way that he has trained all week," Cherry-Evans enthused.
"He hits hard, he works hard, and he is also really willing to learn. He has come up to me a few times to ask me questions just to clarify a few things and as a halfback that is exciting to see him willing to learn and understand our game plan. I know he is going to be okay based on how hard he has worked during the week."
Ofahengaue is slated to start for Queensland alongside a fired up Josh Papalii.
It is a different role to the one he is mostly used to at the Brisbane Broncos where he has come off the bench in the majority of his 82 NRL games.
Another big body, at 190cm and 113kg, the 23-year-old is built for Origin in many respects. His 2019 average of 25 tackles per game and 127m with the ball in hand reveal his penchant for work. Once again, Ofahengaue has a 91 per cent tackle efficiency rating. He is a rock in the middle.
The former Ipswich Brothers junior played in the centres as a youth and has a motor and a half. If called on to play big minutes by Walters, he won’t be fazed.
"You talk about fitness and he is a guy that always used to beat me for fitness at the Broncos," Ofahengaue’s former Brisbane teammate Ben Hunt said this week.
"That is the biggest thing for Joe. Starting in Origin you need fitness and impact and that is something that he has got.
"He will run all day, Joffa. It is great for him to be starting in a game because I know he is not going to let us down."
And that is the key ingredient that both Ofahengaue and Welch bring to the table. They won’t let you down. Like Myles, they will make their teammates feel secure when they run out against the Blues. They will run for miles, and they will run like Myles.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
- Nine Network