Home-grown talent keen to reach new QBL heights
BASKETBALL: As one of Ipswich's most promising home-grown prospects, Mitch Poulain knew he had to do more to keep pace with his high-flying opponents.
He did and he's yielding the rewards for Ipswich Force this season.
As his team battles to make this year's Queensland Basketball League finals, Poulain has been a shining light.
In his third season playing at state league level, he's started in every match and consistently contributed valuable points and defensive might when called upon.
That was especially the case in last weekend's 97-91 win over North Gold Coast where Force were without their injured leader Jason Ralph.
Poulain scored 19 points, second only to Ipswich recruit Jesse Ghee, who also stepped up to take pressure off ever-reliable vice-captain Kyle Harvey.
"He's fitted in really well,'' Poulain said of Ghee.
"Hopefully we can get him back next season as well.''
However, it's the extra off-season work that has helped Poulain continue to rise in a highly competitive sport.
Straight after last year's QBL season ended, the Ipswich chef began doing specialised training with head coach Chris Riches.
"I did a lot of individual work with Chris so I could get better and help out the team as much as I could,'' Poulain said.
"I developed my jumps a little bit better so I can shoot and be more of a threat outside the keyway as well as inside the keyway.''
Riches has praised Poulain regularly for his commitment and highlighting how Ipswich-bred players can progress in the state league with the right attitude.
Poulain, 21, appreciates the faith and belief shown in him by Riches, who has a strong Ipswich development focus.
"With all the work I've done with Chris in the off-season, that's helped me a lot to get to where I'm at now and hopefully I can keep developing so I can help out the team a bit more,'' he said.
"It was a lot of hard work but it's probably started paying off and hopefully I can keep getting better.
"I really want to be able to pay him back.''
Preparing for this weekend's doubleheader, Poulain is also grateful for the support from Harvey and his other teammates.
"He's having another really good season,'' he said of Harvey. "He definitely gives you encouragement and he's always telling me what I need to do to get better.
"If I'm doing something wrong, he'll be the first one to tell me . . . that's always good.
"That's our team though. We all support each other if some-thing goes wrong.''
Poulain said losing Ralph indefinitely with back issues was a blow. But as Ralph has done in the Ipswich program, Poulain was keen to seize his added responsbility.
"It is a bit tough not having Jason there, it's a bit of a challenge,'' the former Woodcrest College student said. "But the guys have adjusted well and we've just powered through it.''
The Force men's and women's teams play Toowoomba away on Saturday before backing up against Logan at Llewellyn Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With four wins from 13 games, the 12th placed men need to keep winning to have any chance of making this year's top eight playoffs.
"We're keeping that as our focus,'' Poulain said.
"We're trying to get both the wins and I think we can.''
The Force women remain in third, with nine wins and four losses, as they attempt to consolidate their progress this weekend.
QBL: Saturday - Ipswich Force v Toowoomba in Toowoomba. Women's game at 6pm with men playing at 8pm.
Sunday: Ipswich Force v Logan at Llewellyn Stadium. Women play at 2pm with men's game at 4pm.