Walters warns troops against believing hype
IPSWICH teams have historically thrived on the underdog tag, but at QLD Group Stadium tomorrow the city's premier rugby league team will start as the short-priced favourite.
TAB Sportsbet yesterday listed the Jets as $1.22 specials to topple the Easts Tigers in the Queensland Cup elimination final at North Ipswich.
After a tough month, the Tigers ($4) limped into fifth place.
Despite the Tigers' patchy form, Ipswich coach Kevin Walters was surprised to learn that critics have already written off the Langlands Park club.
"You wouldn't have thought that six weeks ago, but we've certainly got a lot of respect for them," Walters said last night.
"I know that if we don't respect them we'll get our arses kicked. I don't think we're a side that can get around and not respect teams.
"We're not that good at the game yet.'
Although down on form, the Tigers boast a talent-rich team that includes ex-Kiwi international Joe Galuvao.
"They're a well-balanced side," Walters said of Easts.
"They've got some good forwards, some good backs.
"(Matt) Lockyer's obviously good at the back . . . they're in the five because they can play.
"They've just had a rough couple of weeks. Teams can bounce back quickly in today's environment and we certainly have throughout the season and no doubt they can too."
The winner of tomorrow's match plays the loser of Sunday's semi-final between the Redcliffe Dolphins and Tweed Heads.
Walters said the Ipswich players were enjoying the extra buzz that comes with playing finals' footy.
"It's a credit to the players," the former Broncos captain said.
"They've really applied themselves well through the season. This is the best time of the year to be playing and we're here doing it, which is good."
"I'm really happy for them."
The Jets are likely to go with same side that thrashed Souths Logan 52-4 last weekend.
Unless the Titans' NRL team is rocked by late injuries, Gold Coast pair Josh Lewis and Smith Samau will again don the Ipswich colours.
Lewis was outstanding on debut for the Jets last Sunday. He scored two tries and booted six goals in miserable conditions at Davies Park.
The Ipswich players braved the heavy rain last night with a spirited training session at Len Johnson Oval.
Ipswich trainer Michael Armstrong put the players through an intense work out.
"We didn't do anything Tuesday (because of the heavy field)," Walters said.
"But we'll get something done here tonight. It's all mental this time of the year, though.
"You can't get much fitter, stronger or faster."
Meanwhile, Ipswich's FOGS Cup team is in high spirits ahead of their showdown with the Burleigh Bears at QLD Group Stadium tomorrow.
The winning team plays minor premier Wynnum-Manly for a place in the 2007 grand final at Suncorp Stadium.
The FOGS Cup semi-final (second v third) kicks off at noon.