(Thanks to Jay Buchan and the QT)
THERE were no doubt times when Lorenzo Maafu wondered if he’d get another crack at the big time.
But the Ipswich Jets second rower, who played first grade for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs in 2008, may have received his ticket for a return to the NRL.
Maafu has spent the week training with the Newcastle Knights in Newcastle at the request of Knights coach Wayne Bennett.
Jets coaches Ben and Shane Walker, who played under Bennett, keep in regular contact with the master coach.
“You’d be mad if you didn’t,” Ben said.
It was during one of their conversations Maafu’s name cropped up and Bennett decided to give him a week-long trial, training with the Knights’ senior squad.
“He just sort of asked what we’ve got,” Ben said of Bennett.
“I don’t know what exactly they’re after or if they’re after anyone. But Wayne keeps his eye on the QCup and is always looking for future signings.”
Maafu joined the Jets after a year with the Bulldogs, in which he played a handful of first grade games as a 20-year-old.
After a strong debut season with he Jets in 2009, Maafu had his entire 2010 season wiped out by suspension after a positive drug test.
Making it tougher was that Maafu was the unwilling participant in a prank gone wrong, with his drink spiked by a friend.
Since his return from suspension, Maafu has consistently been one of the Queensland Cup’s best forwards.
He is determined to make the most of this opportunity.
“I’m just training with them and will see how I go,” Maafu said from Newcastle yesterday.
He is due back in Ipswich today to rejoin the Jets ahead of Sunday’s clash with Burleigh.
“It’s been awesome,” Maafu said. “Hopefully something comes out of this.”
Ben Walker has no doubt Maafu is ready for the NRL.
“Along with a number of others in our squad,” Ben said.
“Four years ago he turned up after playing first grade at the Dogs.
“He had a few bad habits in his game. He’s a lot better now and would be more adept playing NRL now than when he did play.
“His ball control is better and his selection when passing.
“His defence has improved out of sight.”
If the trial does not lead to a Knights contract, Ben believes the week away will still be of benefit to Maafu and the Jets.
“It’s a good opportunity for Lorenzo experiencing things down there,” he said. “He’ll come back learning something so it is good for us as well.”
Lorenzo Maafu. Age: 24
Height: 181cm. Weight: 100kg.
Junior club: East Hills Bulldogs (Sydney).
Favourite food: Island food.
Favourite player growing up: Jonah Lomu.
Other sports: Playstation.