IT is often said front rowers don’t peak until their mid-20s.
If the same is true of 18-year-old Ipswich Jets prop Jake O’Doherty, then anything is possible.
Before last weekend, O’Doherty claimed three man-of-the-match awards in a row in the Jets FOGS Cup team.
He didn’t get the main award last weekend against Sunshine Coast, but still polled votes – having already played a full game in Colts beforehand.
“My goal was to play every game (in Colts) and be as consistent as possible,” O’Doherty said of his ambitions at the start of the season.
Once he’d found his feet at Colts, which didn’t take long, his aspirations changed to trying to crack the FOGS Cup team.
That has come just as quickly to the 105kg primary education university student.
The step up from age group football to seniors is one of the most daunting there is for a young footballer. Especially in the forwards, where older opponents sense vulnerability.
But not O’Doherty.
He attributes playing amongst the older players in FOGS Cup as the key to his great form.
“I think just playing with the older blokes and mixing it with them,” he said.
“And learning from blokes like Todd Riggs, the Walker boys and a lot of the forwards.”
Jets half Riggs has been mightily impressed with the youngster and could hardly believe he was just 18.
“I’ve never seen him get dominated,” Riggs said.
“We played Wynnum and they had three or four Queensland Cup forwards. But he got off-loads away, he spins and finds ways to find his front.
“He was the catalyst for our comeback against Wynnum.”
It might look like it has come easy for Jake, but he knows otherwise.
“The hardest part is the extra fitness,” he said.
“All the extras you have to put in every week.
“You’ve got to keep improving yourself.”
The improvement still left in O’Doherty is immeasurable, given his youth, inexperience and the fact he has never done weights.
“I think I have exceeded my expectations,” he said.
“I’m just happy to get a spot in the side. When I started, I thought if it didn’t work out, I could go back to local footy.”
There’s no chance of that now, with O’Doherty slated for bigger things.
He has received some interest from the Newcastle Knights but is in no rush to commit to an NRL contract at the moment.
He is as level-headed as he is talented.
“Next year I’d like to play a few (Queensland) Cup games,” O’Doherty said.
“Maybe get an NRL contract.
“But definitely Queensland Cup is my main aim.”
To achieve that, he knows he can’t rest on laurels.
“I probably need to be a little fitter and get a bit more speed I think,” he said.
“At that level you need speed and fitness. So I need a big off-season, do some weights and get a lot quicker.”