Jets raid country for fresh talent
THE Ipswich Jets will look to the country in search of reinforcements ahead of another Intrust Super Cup campaign.
It has worked wonders in the past and they will again turn to the state’s far northern and inland centres for talented recruits.
Developing local juniors was another pillar of the former Walker regime and this will remain vital to the club’s fortunes moving forward.
Retaining the existing squad has been a focus throughout the off-season.
“That was a priority and we achieved that,” new coach and club legend Keiron Lander said.
“We have kept a good 80 or 90 per cent of our team.
“Now it is just looking at the young fellas we have coming through, the 20s and 18s, and we do have a good handful.
“And also looking at some other players that want an opportunity.”
While key forward Ben Shea and attacking aces Marmin Barba and Michael Purcell head a list of experienced servants to move on, the Jets have managed to hold onto the bulk of the side which faded to ninth and missed the finals last season.
Ipswich has long been a home for players who could not find an opportunity elsewhere.
This tradition will continue under Lander.
In a sign of increasing depth, 68 players attended the first pre-season training session.
To replace the cohort of departing stars, Lander has enlisted a clutch of regional rugby league’s most promising, while several club juniors are also putting their hands up for selection.
“We’ve had some kids come down from the gulf and cape communities to get an understanding of what Queensland Cup is like,” he said.
“We also have good representation from Toowoomba, with half a dozen from up the mountain.
“The beauty of our club is an open door policy.You have got to earn the right to be here but everyone gets an opportunity.”
Among the hottest prospects to join the Jets are Denzell and Jarome Burns.
The playmaking brothers have the potential to light up the Intrust Super Cup.
“They are footballers,” Lander said.
“They just need to be on the field. Locally, we have some kids coming through the 20s – young Josh Johnson and Sammy Langebaan. They’ve stepped up enormously.”
A true hard man of the competition during his career, Lander is a different personality to Ben and Shane Walker.
In the initial stages of his tenure he has added his personal touch and realigned the club’s ethos with his own but the overarching philosophy remains.
Testing the will and commitment of those hoping to crack the top side, he has been absolutely flogging his troops though he is conscience of the need for match fitness.
“You can only get so fit in the pre-season,” he said.
“You need match fitness to transition into the game.
“It is different tackling a bloke in a game to what it is like tackling a guy in training.
“If we can get to round one in good shape and allow our football to grow as the season goes on, and it will.
“The one thing we want to do is enjoy our football because if you are enjoying it, it is easier to work harder.
“We have brought in some new faces but it is still the old Jets.
“My job as a coach is to bring the best out of my players and help them develop on and off the field.
“If I can do that, I’ve done my job.”
Lander has already been communicating with the Walkers brothers and taking advantage of their knowledge.
He considers the duo great mates and knows they will always be there to lean on when he needs them.
“They are always going to be there for advice and support when I need it and I’d be silly and naïve not to use it,” he said.