QLD_CM_SPORT_NRL_BRONCOS TEAM_25FEB20
QLD_CM_SPORT_NRL_BRONCOS TEAM_25FEB20

Ofahengaue faces three-match ban after court case

Broncos prop Joe Ofahengaue will be wiped out of Brisbane's Round 1 blockbuster against the Cowboys, paving the way for a rising Kiwi star to make a shock NRL debut.

The Courier-Mail can reveal towering teenage forward Jordan Riki has bolted into contention to make his NRL debut in Brisbane's season-opener against North Queensland in Townsville.

Riki, 19, will come off the bench in Saturday's final pre-season trial against the Titans at Redcliffe and the former Junior Kiwis captain is in line for an NRL baptism on the back of Matt Lodge's knee injury and Ofahengaue's looming suspension.

 

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The NRL's Integrity Unit has finalised its investigation into Ofahengaue's recent court case and will present its recommendations to the ARL Commission on Friday.

The Broncos are bracing for Ofahengaue to receive a ban of up to three games, leaving them without two first-choice props for the start of the NRL season.

Riki is one of Brisbane's six development players, meaning he is not allowed to play NRL before June 30, but coach Anthony Seibold said the club could seek an exemption to blood him on the back of their injury and suspension problems.

 

Joe Ofahengaue during Brisbane Broncos training at Red Hill. Picture: Peter Wallis
Joe Ofahengaue during Brisbane Broncos training at Red Hill. Picture: Peter Wallis

 

Jordan Riki during Brisbane Broncos training at Red Hill. Picture: Peter Wallis
Jordan Riki during Brisbane Broncos training at Red Hill. Picture: Peter Wallis

"Jordan has been with us in the full-time setup for 12 months," Seibold said.

"He came through our EPD (elite player development) program. We recruited him from New Zealand and he's been in the system for a couple of years.

"We've seen immense growth in the physical side of his preparation. He's worked really hard and is in great shape.

"When he first came into the full-time squad he had a fair bit to do in that area.

"He played a lot of Queensland Cup last year and captained the Junior Kiwis. He's got a good pedigree and is a terrific young guy with a great attitude who wants to get better.

"He's a development list player at the moment, but with us having a few injuries he will come into calculations.

"You can apply for dispensation and exemptions. We'd certainly look at that if we got a couple of injuries."

 

 

Riki played for Norths Devils last year and made an impressive debut for the Maori All Stars at Cbus Super Stadium last Saturday.

Riki looks like he has been carved out of stone and his teammates joke that he is allergic to wearing shirts.

Regularly a back-rower, Seibold will thrust Riki into the front row against the Titans to get a gauge of him ahead of the Cowboys clash on March 13.

"We will play him this week off the bench as a middle forward, we want to get a good look at him," Seibold said.

"I was really impressed with his game in the All Stars. He was very good.

 

Jordan Riki tries to roll through the Indigenous All-Stars defence. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Jordan Riki tries to roll through the Indigenous All-Stars defence. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

 

"He is only 19 so we've got another young one coming through.

"He's got himself into a position where he is competing really hard."

Earlier this month, Ofahengaue pleaded guilty to being in charge of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.136.

The Queensland Origin forward has faced court three times over the past three years and the NRL is expected to issue him a suspension next week.

Ofahengaue will play in the Titans trial but barely trained with Brisbane's main team on Tuesday and the Broncos are resigned to losing him for the early part of the season.

"Possibly, we don't know yet," Seibold said when asked if he expected Ofahengaue to be suspended.

 

 

"We're waiting to hear back from the Integrity Unit.

"He has played a heap of minutes so I was trying to rotate through some of the other guys like Jordan (at training).

"Joe will play this week, but because he's done a lot of reps with the main group I wanted to get some of the younger guys through."