Magnificent seven rise
THE Ipswich Diggers A-Grade squad has been rewarded for its committed performance in the Chairman's Challenge with seven players chosen to represent South-east Queensland.
Selected in the SEQ Green line-up were Brothers' Josh Afoa, Chris Ash and Robert Kennedy, as well as Fassifern's Mitchell Range and Goodna's Brett Kelly.
Earning an SEQ White berth were Goodna's Zachary Lemberg and Ono So'oialo.
Frontrowers Afoa and Lemberg produced enormous performances throughout the challenge and coach Scott Ireland was particularly pleased to see the powerful duo recognised.
Range and Ash also impressed the former Ipswich Jet with their astute tactical play and guidance. They will unite again for SEQ, with selectors choosing to keep the combination intact for the clashes with the Central Region and Northern Region outfits.
Incumbent Queensland Rangers fullback Kelly and winger So'oialo return to the SEQ set-up, while lock Kennedy also earns a call-up.
"Josh and Zach really led the way and set a platform,” Ireland said.
"Mitch and Ash really clicked.
"They offered great direction and they have been paired in the same side, so the selectors were obviously impressed with the style of play they .”
Ireland was pleased with the level of representation and it was a fair reflection of the Chairman's Challenge result.
"Those players performed very well and they are certainly deserving,” he said.
"We had another three of four players who were very unlucky.
"But I'm very happy. This is probably the highest representation we have had in a long time.”
Among those to narrowly miss selection were backrowers Jacob Lindesay and Kelepi Faukafa.
The pair were standouts in Ireland's mind but he said Ipswich would need to win the Chairman's Challenge to see a greater number chosen.
"We definitely have the potential to do that,” he said.
"None of our players would look out of place in an SEQ jersey.
"Hopefully that can provide our players extra motivation in years to come.
"There were QRL and BRL officials really impressed with how we performed and our style of play.
"This just reaffirms that the Ipswich A-Grade competition is on the right track .”
Ipswich's SEQ contingent contest the QRL State A-Grade Carnival, which showcases the best men and women of local league, at Owen Park, Southport RLFC from June 1-2.
Ireland, who has played for SEQ previously, said the representative team was typically very competitive. However, he said the northerners possessed rich histories and took a lot of pride in sticking it to the boys from the city.
He said regardless of the outcome having these players experience a higher standard of football would only enhance their skills and strengthen the local competition.
Both SEQ teams contain a combined 12 Gold Coast Vikings on the back of their dominant displays against the Brisbane Blue and Brisbane Red sides to convincingly win the Alpha Sport trophy for 2019.
The teams will train together over the next two weeks in preparation for the carnival from May 31 - June 2. Players competing in the Championship Carnival will also be eligible for selection in the XXXX Queensland Rangers team.
So'oialo and Kelly appeared for the Rangers last year and it is hoped as many of the Diggers as possible take the step up in 2019.
Rugby League Ipswich manager Brendon Lindsay confirmed it was the Diggers best SEQ representation for a couple of years and said it was encouraging to see the number returned to seven.
"We're really excited for the boys,” he said.
"It is a testament to their commitment to our program.
"It is a great opportunity for them.
"Hopefully they can perform and we get as many picked in the Queensland Rangers as possible.”