Jets 100 gamer strives to recreate championship year
RUGBY LEAGUE: Ipswich Jets winger Richard Pandia plays his 100th game for the club today against the Townsville Blackhawks.
Reaching the milestone figure is a significant achievement for the man hailing from Papua New Guinea who joined the Jets as a colt.
“It (feels) pretty good,” Pandia said of racking up the century in one of the world’s toughest footballing leagues.
“Ever since I came here and started playing 20s the Jets have moulded me and helped me to become a good footy player. They have helped me out with my studies and everything, so I’m excited to be playing 100 for this club.”
Debuting in the Queensland Cup in 2015, Pandia found a home at Ipswich and thrived under a Walker regime which emphasised dedication, creativity, positive relationships, a responsibility to the collective and community values.
His first season also saw him link with one of many teammates he would come to consider a lasting mate.
Now, Pandia calls that same man coach. “The Jets mean a lot to me,” Pandia said.
“I’ve made some good long-term family friends like Keiron Lander. I’ve been with him since 2015 and now he is the coach, so it kind of feels like he is back again with us, which is pretty good.”
Pandia savoured almost immediate success with the club.
That maiden season delivered a glorious career highlight, with Ipswich progressing all the way to the national title, defeating current feeder club the Newcastle Knights on NRL Grand Final day.
Pandia has not forgotten the dream run.
“It was pretty unreal,” he said.
“I just tried to enjoy every moment.”
Lander also remembers the stellar campaign.
“You have just got to watch Richard play and what he does not only on the ball but off the ball,” Lander said.
“I remember in a grand final across two weeks he had over 60 runs. They were pretty strong but the things he did in defence during those finals to save tries you don’t really see unless you watch the replay. Those things are what makes Richie very unique. For a little bloke his strength and determination is as good as Tyson Lafipo. You can’t coach that. It’s not my job to coach that. My job is to coach the finer arts of football and bring out those attributes as best I can.”
Another crowning moment in Pandia’s career came in 2016 when he proudly pulled on the Kumuls jersey in two Tests.
Pandia said the experience of playing for his nation mirrored the highs of 2015.
“The feeling was like 2015 all over again but playing for my country is pretty high above,” he said.
“It was better than playing NRL or anything else.”
Strong and fit after a brutal pre-season, Pandia holds hopes of reliving 2015 and is primed to do his best to bring home another premiership.