Players from the Ipswich Diggers' Mal Meninga Cup team are put through their paces during a training session at North Ipswich Reserve.
Players from the Ipswich Diggers' Mal Meninga Cup team are put through their paces during a training session at North Ipswich Reserve. Damian Dunlop

Cups unite Ipswich Diggers

FROM an age group that was “not overly chock full of champions” a champion team has risen.

Six months ago, they were only Brothers, Norths or Swifts boys.

Now they proudly wear their green and white gear three times a week, as Ipswich Diggers.

An all-Ipswich team full of regional born and bred products has been contesting the newly formed state-wide under-18 competition, the Mal Meninga Cup, for the past six weeks.

The competition has paved the way for Ipswich juniors to mix it with the best in the state on a regular basis.

So far, with two wins and three losses, the Diggers have proved they can compete with the state's best.

They have managed to do that with no Queensland representatives and in an age group that coach Gary Perrett says has traditionally never been a standout side.

“The best thing is we've proved to ourselves we can play with the best under-18 teams in the state,” Perrett said.

“They're all locally born and bred Ipswich boys.

“There are boys here that can play and compete at the best level.

“The best thing is that these boys can go back to their Ipswich clubs and filter back in what they've learnt.

“There are at least two to three from every club, so when they go back it will help lift the standard of the whole Ipswich competition.

“I think it's a godsend, this concept.

“If we weren't our own competition like the IRL, not having a go at the Jets, but we'd have to source material from anywhere we could.

“But we've been left to our own devices and what we've got is the raw Ipswich material.”

Under the old system, Diggers teams would traditionally train for one week, play two or three games and the representative season would be over.

Perrett has praised the new concept, which has allowed players to receive frequent, long-term professional training.

“It gives the boys the best experience, they've been a team since day dot,” he said.

“They've had to prepare properly, we've been training since October.

“It's a massive step from Ipswich under 18s to Jets colts.

“What we're trying to do is bridge that gap, get them professional training, discipline, not just mucking around.”

Going into the penultimate round, Perrett is hoping to end the season with two wins.

Both the under-18 and under-16 teams play Toowoomba at Briggs Road tomorrow.

TEAMS

Cyril Connell Cup (u16) and Mal Meninga Cup (u18) teams for tomorrow's games with Toowoomba at Briggs Road:

Under-16: 1. Rian Diffey, 2. Joshua Rangi, 3. Michael Kai, 4. Tau Tau Moga, 5. Brendan O'Rielly, 6. Jordan Tighe, 7. Cyrus Leota, 8. Caleb Timu, 9. Manuel Grundy-Quay, 10. Jake Payne, 11. Helaman Samuela, 12. Ben Apelu, 13. Sam Johnson. Interchange: 14. Zac Eldridge, 15. Joshua Horne, 16. Soape Palau, 17. Geoffrey Broome.

Under-18: 1. Raymond Te Awa, 2. David Faamita, 3. Josh Cleeland, 4. Ben Poki Poki, 5. Lachlan Tuite, 6. Callum Waldrum, 7. Sam Krueger, 8. Peter Crausaz, 9. Kane Fuller, 10. Travis Jeans, 11. Damian Day, 12. Zac Lemberg, 13. Zeke Pryde. Interchange: 14. Chris Jones, 15. Ashok Kumar, 16. Ben Moore, 17. Aidan Gehrke.



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