LEADING CONTENDER: Ipswich Jets’ best and fairest player Nat Neale dives in for a try in the Queensland Cup semi-final.
LEADING CONTENDER: Ipswich Jets’ best and fairest player Nat Neale dives in for a try in the Queensland Cup semi-final. Sarah Harvey

Jets best Neale eager to keep going forward

NAT Neale was named the Ipswich Jets player of the year, taking out the Allan Langer Medal.

Neale led the polling a third of the way through the season but missed eight rounds after that due to a persistent rib injury.

As such he didn't rate himself any chance of taking out the main award at the Jets presentation night at the North Ipswich Reserve on Friday night.

"It was a huge surprise," the New Zealand-raised forward said.

"I didn't think I would get it."

He didn't even consider himself a contender, instead thinking prop Rowan Winterfield or second rower and 2011 Allan Langer Medallist Lorenzo Maafu would claim it.

Neale polled 33 votes, three ahead of halfback Ian Lacey and Maafu.

"I had a really good start to the season until the rib injury," he said. "It probably took all season (to recover).

"I kept on re-aggravating it every couple of games."

It only came good right at the end of the season, with Neale one of the standouts in the Jets' semi-final loss to Norths.

"It's an honour," he said of claiming the award.

"I don't have words for it."

This year was Neale's second at the club.

He joined for the 2011 season, having moved from New Zealand after being cut from the books of the New Zealand Warriors.

"Last year I was trying to establish myself with all the boys," he said. "And sort of learn how the coaches work.

"It's second nature now."

A year after he won the Allan Langer Medal, Maafu is heading to Parramatta to begin an NRL contract.

Neale hopes it is a good omen and he can follow in his teammate's footsteps.

"That's the big goal," he said.

"Always to make it as a professional footballer."

Currently working as a removalist, Neale might have professional ambitions.

But the love of the game is what keeps him playing.

"Just playing hard and having fun," he said of his personal philosophy on the game.

"I don't play to win awards.

"I play to have fun."

There was not much fun following the Jets' exit from this year's competition but Neale believes the Jets can improve next season and win the Queensland Cup.

"Hopefully we can take it out," he said.

"I thought we'd go close this year.

"It was a disappointing end to the season.

"I didn't want to talk to anyone about footy for about a month after."

He knows that he can get better.

"You can always improve," Neale said.

"I'll have an older head, get bigger and stronger and improve my skills."

HONOUR BOARD

2012 Ipswich Jets awards.

Queensland Cup: Best and fairest: Nat Neale. Players' player: Rowan Winterfield. Best forward: Lorenzo Maafu. Best back: Ramon Filipine. Coach's award: Brendon Lindsay. Rookie of the year: Matt Parcell.

FOGS Cup: Best and fairest: Fred Tila. Players' player: Adam Boettcher. Best forward: Jacob Stephan. Best back: Trivendra Naidu. Coach's award: Luke Pollock

Colts: Best and fairest - Jake O'Doherty. Players' player: Mervyn Walker. Best forward: Zeb Nuuola. Best back: Sam Parcell. Coach's award: Peter Whittaker.

Clubman of the year: Michael Nunn (trainer).

Leading try-scorer: Ramon Filipine.

Sponsors award: Harvest Markets.



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