Bombers bring in big guns to turn fortunes
By MICHAEL HILLIER
HE'S taken on one of the toughest coaching jobs in the Ipswich Rugby League, but new Fassifern Bombers player/coach Paul Carige isn't feeling the pressure.
With a new coach and several promising recruits, expectations are high for the Bombers in 2005.
But that's nothing new.
Passionate Fassifern supporters have been craving their first A grade premiership for over a decade.
Maybe, just maybe, they've found the man who can satisfy the club's army of supporters.
But Carige isn't talking or thinking about premierships.
The former Parramatta Eels utility is concentrating on the basics at training as he prepares his team for the start of their QLD Group Cup campaign.
He isn't concerned about what rival teams are doing.
"I'm just trying to focus on my team," the 31-year-old teacher said.
Although Carige hasn't set any lofty goals for his team throughout the early rounds, Fassifern supporters will be hungry for immediate success after a lean 2004.
But Carige won't let that pressure bother him.
He knows what it's like to play in front of "fanatical" supporters every week after stints with Parramatta and Queensland Cup heavyweights Wynnum Seagulls.
Carige said he was "pretty confident" in his coaching ability.
And so he should be after playing under some of the biggest names in rugby league.
The former Wynnum backrower has been coached by Brian Smith, Andrew Farrar, Kevin Walters, Andy Gregory, Terry Matterson and Gary Belcher.
Carige, who lives at Purga, said he was enjoying his coaching stint with the Bombers.
"I was stoked (when Fassifern approached me) and I'm really enjoying it," he said.
"They're good country kids."
Fassifern president Dominic Morton said Carige had already won the respect of the players.
"The guys that are training under him, they reckon it's great," Morton said.
"Ted Stephan said to me that it's just like a breath of fresh air."
Stephan, a former Fassifern captain, has returned to the Bombers after a break from the game.
A number of other players, including key forwards Allan Kliese and Adam Moffatt, have also returned to Fassifern this year.
Kliese, former Jets star Shane Williams and experienced hooker Graham Taylor loom as the game-breakers for the Bombers.
However, Kliese hasn't been a regular at training throughout the pre-season because of personal commitments and Williams is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.
Williams is recovering from a knee operation that brought a premature end to his 2004 season with the Jets.
Former Norths five-eighth Joel Blanco is another key signing for the Bombers, who are tipped to be one of the big improvers this year along with Redbank Plains.
Redbank Plains has been in top form throughout the pre-season after recruiting a host of players.
The IRL premiership season kicks off at QLD Group Stadium, North Ipswich, on March 12.
The opening "Super Saturday" round features three A grade matches.
Keep reading your QT for a comprehensive IRL season preview.