Cleeland up with the best in game
HE HAS been receiving huge wraps for the four tries he's scored in his past three Queensland Cup games.
Now unassuming Ipswich Jets five-eighth Josh Cleeland has received just about the highest praise possible, from a former State of Origin player who just happens to play outside him for the Jets.
Chris Walker has labelled Cleeland an NRL player through and through, comparing him to the likes of Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler for his ability to read play and react instinctively.
"If he's not an NRL player then I'm not here," Walker said.
"He's a wonderful talent.
"It's a privilege to play outside him.
"The instincts he has for the game are second to none.
"That includes the likes of Lockyer and Fittler."
On the eve of today's clash with Tweed Heads at the North Ipswich Reserve Cleeland put his recent form down to confidence and fitness.
He tried his hand with the senior Jets at pre-season training in 2013 when he was recovering from a knee reconstruction.
During his time off his weight ballooned to 115kg and he had to abort his attempts to play for Ipswich.
Instead he played a season of Ipswich Rugby League for Swifts, collecting the A grade player-of-the-year award.
He returned to the Jets last season and cemented his spot in the top grade. He is now a fit 93kg and untroubled by his knee.
But in the last month he has taken his game to a new level and is now a genuine game breaker.
"It's the fittest I've ever felt," the 23-year-old said.
"Back when I had the knee injury I was struggling to play 80 minutes.
"Now I can just play football rather than concentrate on making it through 80 minutes.
"I have the speed and agility to do stuff."
Walker has endorsed him to be equally as effective in the NRL.
"He can turn a game on its head like he's done for us three weeks in a row," Walker said.
"If an NRL club is looking for a young five-eighth he's brilliant."
The admiration is mutual, with Cleeland crediting Walker for his spike in form.
"Having Chris outside me gives me confidence," he said.
"Telling me what to do and when to pass and when to run."
- Today (3pm): Ipswich Jets v Tweed Heads at North Ipswich Reserve.
- Head to Head: Tweed 18, Ipswich 8. The last time these two teams clashed was the 2014 elimination final.
The Jets won to record their first ever win at the Tweed.
Tweed has scored 196 points (36 tries) this year compared to the Jets' 294 (52 tries).
Tweed has allowed 212 points (39 tries) compared to the Jets 218 (42 tries).
- BRL: Jets v Gaters at 1pm.
- Colts: Jets v Toowoomba Clydesdales at 5pm.