Jets out to close gap on NRL
THE Ipswich Jets will have a point to prove this weekend against the Manly Sea Eagles.
The Jets touch down in Manly today ahead of their final pre-season trial against the NRL heavyweights at Pittwater Park.
A breakout year for the Jets last season saw their premiership winning team lose a number of stars to NRL clubs for the 2016 season.
Jets co-coach Shane Walker said losing so many of their players to NRL clubs showed how close the Jets are to the first-grade standard.
"The step to the NRL is certainly close," Shane Walker said.
"With the training programs we roll out there's no big gap in our program to the NRL."
With a new-look side still testing their combinations, Walker said the trial would be a big test for the Jets.
"We're excited, outside of Parcell they have named their strongest 17," he said.
"We will have a number of guys that will play in round one that we haven't been able to take to Manly, but it's a great opportunity."
The Jets will be without the golden boot of Carlin Anderson after his departure to the Brisbane Broncos for the 2016 season.
His absence has left the Jets without a full-time kicker but Walker is confident the Jets have a ready replacement with the return of Marmin Barba.
"Marmin (pictured) is quite an accurate kicker," Walker said.
"Despite how good he is at it, he's not the most keen kicker.''
In the previous two trial games the Jets have forgone conversions in favour of chasing more match minutes.
Walker said against Manly his side would need the extra points.
"We haven't kicked for goal at all yet this pre-season," he said.
"Against Manly we'll try and amass as many points as we can.
"Haydon Lipp is another one who can goal kick. We'll see what works."
Walker said he was excited to see Jets fan-favourite Barba. He expected the speedster to test the experienced Manly defence.
"I can't see why he won't be dangerous," Walker said.
"Anyone with his instincts and speed would worry anyone.
"It's great to have his humour and energy back at training. He loves being a Jet and we love having him."
Another fan-favourite, Sudanese winger Chol Chol, has attracted plenty of attention from the Manly media in the lead-up to the trial.
Walker was quick to play down the media hype.
"Chol has done a wonderful job and he will be starting off the bench," he said.
"He's on a really steep learning curve but he's got a long way to go to being a first grade footballer."
With the likes of Barba and Michael Purcell in the wings, Walker said the Jets would have plenty of attacking options against the Sea Eagles.
"Marmin does a great job on that left wing and Purcell is a guy ready-made for first grade football," he said.
"He's got great speed, instinct and plenty of strength despite his size."
Newcastle recruit David Fa'alogo will miss the trial to attend a wedding in New Zealand.
Fa'alogo made his Jets debut against the Burleigh Bears last weekend but is expected to miss the first few rounds of the Intrust Super Cup to catch up on training.
Manly's new Ipswich recruit Matt Parcell will miss the trial with a hamstring injury.
Today (5pm, Qld time): Ipswich Jets v Manly Sea Eagles at Pittwater Park.