Ipswich boys taking on the Cowboys in NRL grand finals
FOUR years ago they were team mates at St Peter Claver College.
Tomorrow, Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford and giant prop Joe Ofahengaue will play in the NRL grand final against the Cowboys.
It is a remarkable rise and a tribute to their talent, dedication and the outstanding grounding they received at one of Ipswich's leading schools.
Milford has to pinch himself when he considers the rise both he and Ofahengaue have enjoyed.
"It is massive," Milford said.
"I just said to Joe last week how only a few years ago we were playing together in school footy, and now we are in a GF in the big time."
The 21-year-old Milford spent three years at St Peter Claver College (SPC) after arriving in Year 10.
SPC rugby league coach Todd Riggs said he always had extraordinary talent, but that his attitude and application was a standout.
"Tony (Milford) was always proactive and competed with everything that he did," Riggs said.
"He was complete class from the minute he came to the place, but he was a real leader and helped shape the culture that is here now."
At 112kg, the 20-year-old Ofahengaue is a big man.
He is also a big personality.
The 'Big O' also can't believe how far he has come in a few short years.
"It is crazy to look back and think that we were wagging school not that long ago," Ofahengaue grinned.
"Having Milf in the same squad is unbelievable.
"You probably saw what Milf did at school, but it is crazy to think that he is now doing all of that stuff in the NRL. He is just a freak.
"It is great to see other St Peter Claver boys like (Cowboys back) Tautau Moga also playing NRL too."
Ofahengaue arrived at SPC a year after Milford where he completed Year 11 and 12.
"He was the leader of our (league) program in Year 12 and with him and Tony coming through we knew they were going to go on to bigger and better things," Riggs said.
"Joe played in the middle and there were times where we had Tony and Joe in the same side and they won games by themselves.
"The best thing about the boys and the way they came through was how they treated their schooling.
"They got their senior certificates and they were quality young men around the place and great role models for the younger guys.
"Now the younger boys have taken the program even further based on what they have seen Joe, Tony and Tautau Moga go on and do."
Ofahengaue, who lives at Collingwood Park with his family, said Broncos prop Adam Blair has been a huge inspiration to him both on and off the field with his professional approach.
"You just look at the way he plays and he gives his all whether it is his defence or his attack," he said.
"To do both at the highest level is just amazing.
"I enjoy a few pizzas and I came back (to training) this year a bit overweight.
"My skinfolds were a bit up, and Adam has this new, clean diet which I have taken on.
"He doesn't drink during the season and most of the boys jumped on board with that.
"Kodi (Nikorima) stopped drinking for a few months and Jordan (Kahu) hasn't had a sip this year.
"I do now and then. I'm not too big on it."
Ofahengaue said Blair's focus on the football field is always on the next play.
His error rate is low, but if there is a mishap his body language doesn't show it.
"If we knock the ball on he is relaxed and just gets ready for his next job," Ofahengaue said.
"That is something I really take out of his footy.
"I am looking to be learning a lot off him in the next couple of years I am with him."
Nikorima and Ofahengaue played in the Broncos under 20s side last year that reached the grand final.
But an NRL decider is another step up.
"I am just soaking it all up and just trying to stay as calm as possible," Big Joe said.
"I am excited for myself and Kodi.
"We have come from the under 20s and to play in another grand final the next year is unbelievable.
"To be in the NRL squad…it is just another step.
"My biggest dream was to play in the NRL and I think this year I got a bit lucky with injuries.
"I got an opportunity and I am just really glad that Wayne was looking my way.
"I grew up idolising players like Corey Parker and Justin Hodges so to be playing alongside them in a game like this is just awesome."
Ofahengaue made his NRL debut in the Broncos' round two win over the Sharks.
He knew after his performance in the World Club Series clash against Wigan in February that he had what it took to play NRL.
"I looked at that as my debut," he said.
"That was one of the toughest games I played this year.
"I only had around 10 minutes in each half but I gave it my all.
"It gave me a lot of confidence coming into my NRL debut and I haven't looked back since. I am just really grateful to Wayne (Bennett) for the opportunity he gave me."
Milford also feels blessed.
After a stint at the Raiders he has returned home to be closer to his loved ones.
He signed with Brisbane before the homecoming of Wayne Bennett was announced and under the master coach he has blossomed.
"Coming home was all about being close to my family," Milford said.
"It was a blessing that Wayne came as well. I am fortunate for the opportunity they have given me here at the Broncs.
"I know grand finals don't come around very often as all the older boys have told us. I am going to cherish this moment and go out and do my best."
As for Riggs, he is just delighted that two of his former players are fulfilling their dreams.
"It has been a big year for those two boys and we are very proud that they have made it to the big show," he said.