Jets reject tablets to make buzzing start in PNG
AS they often do, tactical Ipswich Jets co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker only finalised their PNG-bound squad last night.
Among the late changes is Mitch Carpenter out and Cairns recruit Denzel King heading overseas on the bench.
Dummy half King played one game for the Jets last season, against Northern Pride in round 21.
Former Titans NRL hooker Kierran Moseley is also making the trip, starting on the bench.
However, Ben Walker was confident the Jets could make an early impression on Sunday in what he no longer considers the toughest road trip to Port Moresby.
"We're looking good,'' Walker said, preparing to join the team for Saturday morning's flight to PNG.
"We are in great shape . . . feeling good about it.
"It (flying to Port Moresby) is not so bad now. It's only a three-hour flight.
"It's not as bad as it used to be (being all-day travel with the previous flight routes).
"Now it's a lot easier. It's like going to Cairns.''
As they did for last season's trek to face the PNG Hunters on their home soil, the Walker brothers avoided making their players sick with pre-game malaria medication.
"We stayed off the tablets again,'' Ben said.
"Every time we've done it, we've had guys with diarrhoea and stuff so it doesn't go well with them.
"We haven't done it this time either.''
The compromise for the Jets touring contingent heading overseas is applying lots of mosquito repellent.
Newly-appointed captain Nat Neale will lead the Jets in Sunday afternoon's opening game of the Intrust Super Cup season.
"It's a great reward for him,'' Ben said.
"It now allows Dane (former skipper Dane Phillips) just to relax and play footy and not to have to worry about the burden of captaincy.''
That will also give Phillips a better opportunity to manage his injury.
"He's been battling for a little while with his knee but that's not unusual for him,'' Ben said supporting his halfback.
"He'll be fine.''
Ben was pleased to have Jets "mainstays'' back like Michael Purcell, Wes Conlon, Richard Pandia and Tyson Lofipo.
"We know what we're going to get from the fellows every week, which is great,'' he said.
Lofipo has played 159 games for the Jets, being one of the team's best last season.
Fijian giant Pio Seci will make his debut.
Former Australian Sevens rugby talent Sam Caslick is also in the first Jets side, ready to make an impact off the bench.
"Sam is going well,'' Ben said.
"He'll come on and do a really good job for us.''
Another Jet carrying huge expectations is Julian Christian, following his efforts for the Capras.
After a pre-season trip to New Zealand, the Jets co-coach said his team was feeling comfortable about launching a new season.
"It brought the boys closer and it was just a nice little tune-up for the start of the year,'' he said.
As for Sunday's opponents, Ben said the Hunters were a quality side offering an excellent first-up test.
"They won the comp last year and they've been strong every year they've been in,'' he said.
"They almost beat the Broncos (in the pre-season) and the Broncos were full strength there the other day.''
Intrust Super Cup Round 1 Sunday (3pm): Ipswich Jets v PNG Hunters at National Football Stadium, Port Moresby.
Last time they clashed: Round 22, 2017 - PNG Hunters 20 (David Loko, Stargroth Amean, Stanton Albert, Ase Boas tries; Ase Boas 2 goals) def Ipswich Jets 4 (Michael Purcell try) at National Football Stadium, Port Moresby. Head to head: PNG Hunters 6, Ipswich Jets 3.