Ipswich to face old enemy
DESPITE finalising the line-up just days before running out the Ipswich Diggers are confident they will be a force during this weekend's Chairman's Challenge at Souths, Acacia Ridge.
With several players under injury clouds, Ipswich was unable to settle on a side until yesterday morning.
Redbank's Michael Pouhila was forced to withdraw due to work commitments and Bluebird Jacob Sinn pulled out with a foot injury.
But coach Scott Ireland believes the outfit at his disposal possesses the ability to take out the Challenge.
"It is a pretty strong squad,” he said.
"There is a good feeling about the team.
"With injuries and work commitments we haven't had the consistency that you would like going in. But we have two sessions this week and then bring on the carnival.”
Goodna prop Zach Lemberg is expected to captain the side, which features seven of his teammates and stars from Brothers (4), Swifts (1), West End (2), Fassifern (2) and Norths (1).
Ireland said the integral frontrower's experience meant he was the right man for the job.
"I like the way Zach holds himself,” Ireland said. "I think it will bring the best out of him.”
Ireland will also look to Ipswich Jets and Brothers playmaker Chris Ash to organise on-field and guide the team around the park.
"Chris is a natural talker and a leader,” Ireland said.
"Fassifern's Mitch Range is another club captain. He leads through his actions and is also someone you look up to.”
Former Jet Ireland said the Diggers had been blessed with a good mix of experience and youth.
He said the presence of players who possessed Queensland Cup experience like West End's Blake Lenehen and Ash should also hold them in good stead.
"There are a fair few who have played higher level footy,” he said.
"That really showed during training. There was a greater understanding of the type of footy required at that level.
"I certainly can't fault the way that the group has bought in.”
Having previously held the position of captain/coach at the Bombers, Ireland is excited to be taking on his first representative coaching gig.
"Usually you have months over the pre-season to prepare a side and filter in the way you want them to play,” he said.
"Whereas this is obviously short and sharp.
"We've kept it (game plan) very basic. We'll earn the right to play footy and enjoy ourselves in attack. The reason these guys are playing rep football is that they are all very good footballers already.”
Ireland said he would love to see the Diggers concept developed to incorporate more training sessions in the future to give him time to mould the side.
He said it would only lift the overall standard of the A-Grade competition.
"Diggers have probably underperformed in the past,” he said. "And that's not being critical of anyone it's a matter of resources.”
The annual tri-series between Brisbane, Ipswich and the Gold Coast has been revamped this year, with the capital supplying two teams.
Ipswich will meet them both after drawing the 2pm game on both Saturday and Sunday.
Ireland said he was pleased with the draw and the games against the top players in the Brisbane Rugby League would provide a good indication of where the Ipswich competition was placed, in terms of quality.
"The BRL is probably a faster competition but I believe our skill will match anybody,” he said.
"There is a lot of talent in the Ipswich competition. I could have picked two sides.”
Ipswich Diggers A-Grade: Ono So'oialo, Jake O'Doherty, Jardii Nean, Ramon Filipine, Blake Lenehen, Brett Kelly, Christopher Ash, Jacob Lindsey, Fine Faingaa, Liam-Jessi (LJ) Waddups, Sounda Seumanutafa, Raymond Baira, Robert Kennedy, Kelepi Faukafa, Iosua Afoa, Anava Fesolai, Zachary Lemberg, Mitchell Range.
Ipswich Diggers Under-20s: Dion Tavita-Matavale, Prezley Vaoiva, Ativalu Lisati, Codey Hazard, Fiohiva Siale-Faingaa, Brock Mullen, Xavier Michael, Brydan Thompson, Charlie Christensen, Lisite Hafoka, AJ Sausoo, Luke Peel, Isaiah Balogh, reece Broadway, Moahengi Alovili, August Tolova'a, Peter Maseesee, Kaygen Munro.