Northern exposure tough mission for hungry Jets
WITH top spot already wrapped up, the Northern Pride hosts the Ipswich Jets in the penultimate round of the Queensland Cup in Cairns tonight.
The Pride can look contentedly at their achievements this season as they wait for finals.
But the Jets are primed, knowing a win will ensure they qualify for finals and retain the slim hope of a top-three finish.
It was 2008 last time the Jets beat the Pride up north, also the year they last reached the grand final.
Only Troy O'Sullivan, Brendon Marshall and Kurtis Lingwoodock remain from that team.
O'Sullivan admits he took success for granted back then, but now knows how rare grand final opportunities are.
"They're two very different sides," he said.
"That was a very good team.
"It had a lot of confidence as well. They're almost on par.
"I think we're just as good a chance as back then.
"We're dangerous across the park when we hold on to the ball.
"We've beaten every team."
The Jets ended the Pride's six-match unbeaten start to the season in April at Ipswich.
It was one of only three Pride losses this year and they are currently on a 12-match streak.
So a win for the Jets would send a message to the competition's finals candidates and fuel the belief they can go one better than Kevin Walters' class of 2008.
"That's exactly what we want to do," O'Sullivan said. "Make a statement. They might be a bit complacent I reckon.
"Hopefully we're hungrier."
O'Sullivan played fullback in 2008 - a bright young prospect still harbouring dreams of using the Queensland Cup as a stepping stone to an NRL career.
"It's a very different role I play now," the man known as Sully said.
Sullivan starts at hooker, before making way for Mat Parcell.
It means he gets the brunt of defensive duties when the opposition big men are freshest.
With Parcell on, he fills a utility role but can usually be found where the going is toughest.
O'Sullivan had played hooker before last year but coaches Ben and Shane Walker had only ever known him as a back when he returned to the club after three years away.
But once they realised how effective he could be in his unique role, O'Sullivan has remained an integral part of the squad.
"It took a while to get my chance," he said.
"I like tackling and defending. It's good to get that body contact."
It is a testament to his attitude and durability given O'Sullivan, at about 80kg, concedes a lot of weight to most blokes he tackles.
His defensive abilities will be vital this weekend. "Last time we played them, we defended really well," O'Sullivan said.