Joe Ofahengaue and partner Sofi Leota.
Joe Ofahengaue and partner Sofi Leota.

She inspires me: Bronco hails partner’s brave cancer battle

BRISBANE forward Joe Ofahengaue says his partner's inspirational battle with breast cancer has been the key to his form resurgence ahead of the NRL finals.

Ofahengaue said unwanted headlines swirling around Broncos coach Wayne Bennett had steeled the young Brisbane pack for a title tilt, starting with Sunday's NRL elimination final against St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium.

However, Tongan international Ofahengaue said the catalyst for his form had been 23-year-old partner Sofi Leota.

"She has been a big drive for me," the 22-year-old key bench forward said.

"She has been awesome. She has helped everyone around her."

A brutally honest Ofahengaue shocked TV viewers when he broke the news about his partner's diagnosis while accepting a man-of-the-match award after Brisbane's round 11 win over the Sydney Roosters in May.

"Well my missus just got diagnosed with breast cancer. I'm hoping I can offer this for some support and maybe pay for some chemo or something," Ofahengaue told stunned Nine Network reporter Darren Lockyer after being handed the $1000 man-of-the-match cheque.

Ofahengaue said his partner's strength and his Broncos teammates' support had ensured it had not been hard to be inspired for the NRL finals.

"She has been awesome. And coming to the club, the guys have been awesome and it just gives me that little getaway place you kind of need sometimes," he said.

Ofahengaue has hardly looked distracted this season, helping a young Broncos pack make a statement despite off-field drama surrounding Bennett and injuries to Test back-rower Matt Gillett and young gun Payne Haas.

Ofahengaue said the messy fallout over the Brisbane board knocking back Bennett's request to coach on in 2020 had only made the team stronger as they looked to break their 12-year premiership drought.

"I am really proud. We have been through a lot with injuries and obviously what has been written about our club," he said.

"It has only brought us closer as a team and as a pack it has made us more determined to do our best for our halves."

Ofahengaue limped off at training on Thursday with a leg and groin complaint but said nothing would stop him from playing.

"I didn't stretch properly, I got excited. I got a virus - finals fever," he said with a laugh.

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