Jets look for new NRL club
THE Ipswich Jets and Gold Coast Titans are to sever ties at the end of the season, forcing the Jets to search far and wide for a new National Rugby League club to join forces with.
Jets chief executive officer Brad Wolens confirmed the Titans pulled the plug on their feeder club relationship with Ipswich.
"That's from their end," Wolens said.
"They're wanting to pool their players closer to home."
The Jets' Queensland Cup rivals Tweed Heads and Burleigh will remain feeder clubs for the Titans.
"Some players involved with the Titans indicated they didn't want to have to drive up to here every week to train," Wolens said.
If the Jets cannot find a new NRL club to work with, it will seriously hinder the club's recruitment prospects.
Many of the Jets' recruits from outside Ipswich in the past two seasons have admitted the link with the Titans was the lure that brought them to Ipswich. The Jets were able to attract the likes of Mark Appleton and last year's Queensland Cup player of the year Javarn White because they were offered pre-season training contracts with the Titans.
Front rower Luke Page is the other Titans contracted player currently with the Jets.
Without the sort of incentive and support the Titans provide, Ipswich will struggle to attract players of similar quality.
"I think that will be the big downfall," Wolens said.
"To stand alone without NRL support is difficult."
Which means Wolens is working overtime trying to come up with an alternative to the Titans and is searching as far as Sydney, where he has spoken to two clubs without success so far.
"We would love to be able to try something with the Broncos but they didn't want to dilute their product any further," he said.
The Broncos already have three Queensland Cup clubs - Redcliffe, Wynnum-Manly and Norths - as feeder clubs.
The Jets act as a defacto feeder club to the Broncos as it is, with the Brisbane club snapping up numerous former Ipswich players in recent seasons.
However, Ipswich receives no benefit.
"We're not chasing clubs for players but for support," Wolens said.
"We're having a look to see what we can do.
"We've come close with a couple of clubs."
As the uncertainty over the NRL's expansion plans drags on, the Jets remain in limbo.
Should a Western Corridor bid get the green light, it won't be until 2015 at the earliest.
So any new feeder club relationship in the meantime will only be short term, which is likely to be a disincentive to NRL clubs looking to longer-term development options.
But Wolens is not going to wait until then. "We want something in place by mid-season," he said.