Hungry Tigers on prowl
THEY'RE the nomads of Ipswich rugby league.
Homeless and itinerant, floating between their temporary training venue at Briggs Road and playing home games at IRL headquarters at North Ipswich Reserve, when it's available that is.
One and a half years after Keith Sternberg Oval was submerged under metres of floodwater, Norths probably feel like picking up a tambourine as much as a football as their two season-long gypsy existence continues.
The latest assessment of the post-flood reconstruction of the Tigers home ground has found it needs 8-12 more weeks before players run on the recently-laid turf.
The new timeline finishes around the same period the IRL finals begin, essentially ruling out a return to their spiritual home in 2012.
According to co-captain Dale Robertson, the loss of their home base has made it harder for players to build the team spirit and passion so critical to team success.
"It's been difficult," Robertson said. "You get brought up playing at Keith Sternberg Oval and you always have that extra passion playing at your home ground.
"When you don't get to play there, it's very hard."
Club officials have faced an uphill battle since the flood disaster to attract players and fans back to the club post games and training.
Robertson said it was a shame but understandable that people would choose to head home rather than to a second venue, particularly on training nights.
"I know I find it hard sometimes to get back to the clubhouse," he said. "I think it's been hard for all the players."
Norths have worked closely with the IRL and council since the floods to ensure all team had training and playing venues.
But Robertson admitted the challenges had probably had some affect on performances and moral on the field.
"I've never really thought about it too much but it probably has," Robertson said.
"I guess it's in the back of your mind all the time and the players don't get together as much as they used to."
All things considered, the Tigers' performances this season make impressive reading.
Sitting third on the ladder and boasting an impressive early season win over premiership favourites Brothers, the Tigers go into tonight's game against Fassifern with confidence that belies their difficult situation.
"We're going to be ready for Fassifern, that's for sure," Robertson said.
"We just plan to be a well-drilled side.
"You don't have to be flashy, it's very hard to beat any team that holds on to the ball."
Both Fassifern and Norths will be well rested for the match after enjoying the Ipswich Cup weekend bye.
Norths will be desperate for a win over the Bombers to stay in contention for a top-two finish at season's end.
- IRL A grade fixtures
- Tonight 7pm: Norths v Fassifern at North Ipswich Reserve
- Tomorrow 3pm: Goodna v Swifts at Richardson Park
- Brothers v West End at Brother Seery Oval