Ipswich captain shares ‘awesome’ time with Bullets star
HAPPY to be back on court after a 12 month injury battle, Ipswich Force captain Jason Ralph appreciated having two experienced allies to settle his nerves.
The first was Australian Boomers and Brisbane Bullets star Nathan Sobey who led Force to a thrilling 87-86 Queensland State League (QSL) win over Brisbane Capitals.
The second first-round assistant was Jesse Ghee, who Ralph was unable to play with in last year's Queensland Basketball League as he tried to resolve worrying back problems.
However, feeling fresh and delighted with the QSL opportunity, Ralph will remember last weekend's last-gasp victory for a long time.
"It was awesome to be part of,'' Ralph said, preparing for Ipswich's second round clash against Sunshine Coast Phoenix in Maroochydore on Sunday.
"It was our first game. We didn't have any trial games or anything like that because of the rushed pre-season with the whole situation going on.
"But I think we adapted to it really well, especially with a guy like Nathan coming on board.''
Having the on-court guidance of Sobey helped Force's promising Ipswich-bred contingent reach a new level.
"We just clicked,'' Ralph said, in his ninth season of state league basketball.
"The guys knew where to go and what was going on, on the floor.
"We really executed down the stretch, particularly in the last three or four minutes there.''
Sobey nailed the final three-pointer with seconds left to complete a wonderful Ipswich win.
"It was the first time Nathan even met some of the blokes,'' Ralph said.
"Anything Nathan said, people are going to listen to.
"He did provide that calming influence to the group and it's always good to hear another voice as well and the guys really took that on board.''
With other exciting Ipswich-bred talents like Mitch Poulain and Kane Bishop having bigger roles in the QSL, Ralph said Ghee was another valuable contributor.
As Sobey led the way with 33 points, Ghee added a crucial 23 points.
"That was actually the first time I played with Jesse Ghee as well,'' he said.
"To play with Jesse and then Sobes as well. It was just good to have more ball handlers out there and guys on the wing that can score the ball as well.
"It's always good to get the Ipswich guys back on the court as well.''
Ralph was waiting to hear if Sobey was available for Sunday's game. That depends on his Bullets commitments and his National Basketball League preparation plans.
However, Ralph said having Bullets players like Sobey involved was terrific for the newly-formed Queensland State League.
"Having the NBL guys available makes the competition even better,'' the former Ipswich Grammar School student said. "The comp is fantastic.
"For what we can offer right now with the current situation, even the spectators are dying to watch some quality basketball as well.
"To be part of it as player is even more special.
"The guys actually realise how much people enjoy coming on a Saturday night to watch you play basketball.
"There are some very high quality players. The teams are as strong as ever, even without imports.''
As for his condition returning from surgery and months of rehabilitation, Ralph was clearly upbeat.
"I practised on Monday night and my body's pulled up great,'' he said.
"It's been a long time coming. It was over a year that I didn't put the boots on.''
The loyal Ipswich guard was also pleased for his wife Georgia, who was awarded the co-captaincy in this year's Force women's side.
"She's stoked about that,'' Jason said.
"She's very happy stepping up into that role. She's always been a leader going through the ranks and at college level.
"Her time has finally come at the QSL level.''
The Ipswich Force women play the Sunshine Coast Phoenix in Sunday's 2pm match at Maroochdore. Force lost their opening game 72-65 to Brisbane Capitals.
Look out for the QSL match of the round being livestreamed each week on the QT website.
This weekend, the Saturday games are between South West Metro and Brisbane Capitals men's and women's teams from 6pm.
On Sunday from 3pm, the livestreamed matches will be Southern Districts Spartans and Gold Coast Rollers.
QSL Round 2 Division 1 men: Sunday (4pm) - Ipswich Force v Sunshine Coast Phoenix at Maroochydore Basketball Stadium.
Division 1 women: Sunday (2pm) - Ipswich Force v Sunshine Coast Phoenix at Maroochydore Basketball Stadium.