NRL return likely
IPSWICH Jets back-rower Lorenzo Ma'afu has returned to pre-season training in peak condition and club chairman Steve Johnson is adamant the former Bulldog is on the cusp of an imminent return to the NRL.
Ma'afu played two games with Canterbury in 2008 and is regarded as one of the most talented forwards not to be currently playing in the NRL.
He was close to securing a gig with the Sea Eagles this year and his Wikipedia entry has him at Manly in 2012. That is not the case but the 24-year-old is highly regarded by Titans' coach John Cartwright and may yet get to play a pre-season trial with the Gold Coast next month.. If not, the versatile forward will be right in the mix for a call-up should the Titans season falter.
Ma'afu would likely be at Manly this year had former Sea Eagles recruitment manager Noel Cleal not gone to Canterbury in the aftermath of the grand final. Cleal, an old back-rower himself, was a huge fan of Ma'afu and was set to sign the star Jet before his sudden exit from the Sea Eagles' camp.
But Johnson said Ma'afu's chance would surely come in the coming months, whether he plays a trial for the Titans or not.
"The Titans intention was to give Lorenzo a crack in a trial as a reward for a stellar season last year and the way he always presents himself as a magnificently fit rugby league player who does some amazing things," Johnson said.
"Lorenzo always trains very hard and he was to get a trial with the Titans in a game over in Auckland. I believe that may be under review because John Cartwright may want to take some of his top 25 players over.
"But he is definitely on the radar of Manly and the Titans. Hopefully during the season he will get his long overdue call-up for the Titans. He deserves it. He has trained the house down again. He is superbly fit and motivated. He has been a wonderful asset around the club with his enthusiasm. Rugby league rewards effort and Lorenzo is always 100%. He never quits."
Jets new signing Javarn White has also made a big impression on Cartwright. White, a livewire fullback who joined the Jets from Norths, has been likened to Matthew Bowen and Preston Campbell in the way he plays the game. With the Titans looking for a new fullback he may well be a chance of playing in the number one jersey at some stage.
There is a draft draw out for the 2012 Queensland Cup with the official season program to be released next week. The Jets have some travelling to do first up.
"We've got the Northern Pride in Cairns and Mackay away in round one and three. It is a tough draw because those sides are traditionally at their best at that time of year," Johnson said.
"We surprised sides last year in with our spirited defence and exhilarating attack."