Roaming Bulldogs tryscorer builds new future after setbacks
HAVING overcome some nasty injury setbacks and previously been with Norths, Jesse Zampech could be forgiven for needing more time to settle in at West End.
But after scoring two tries and encouraging the Bulldogs forwards, Zampech felt comfortable at his new Ipswich club.
Playing a roaming halfback/five eight role, the Brassall-bred footballer savoured West End's first victory in this year's Volunteers Cup competition, albeit the 36-30 finish after a seesawing battle.
"That's what you expect from the first two weeks in the comp I suppose,'' Zampech, 21, said.
He said it takes time to restore combinations after a long break, especially against new opposition from Toowoomba sides.
Zampech joined West End for the first time this season after a stint with Norths Tigers and working in Sydney before returning to his home city.
"The team is gelling together slowly,'' he said, knowing some of his new teammates from previous Ipswich State High School connections.
"I'd like to try and crack the Jets one day but I'll just see how everything goes this year.
"Hopefully I will be back next year.''
Zampech grew up at Brassall, going to Ipswich State High before earning a scholarship and returning in year 12 to play for the school in the Super Six competition.
He's enjoying playing rugby league again having recovered from major knee damage with put him out for eight months. He also injured his ankle at the end of last season, adding a year to his time away from the game.
The former Ipswich State High winger was working in Sydney trying to secure a spot with the Rabbitohs before circumstances dramatically changed.
"With COVID and everything here, I thought I'd make the move back home and get into the Ipswich comp as soon as possible,'' he said.
He welcomes a looming match against his old club in future Volunteers Cup clashes.
"I've never had the opportunity to verse Norths and I've always had a keen interest in West End,'' he said.
"I played a couple of trial games for them (Norths) last year and actually ended up back at Norths. But this year is better than ever.''
In Saturday's match, Zampech scored the first two tries after halftime with his team trailing 20-10.
"I think I was supposed to be halfback but I just tried to play a little bit of five-eight to support the boys,'' he said. "We've got a lot of big boys compared to them (Gatton).
"I thought if we just play off the back of them, the tries will come.''
The four pointers did - eventually.
West End trailed by 10 at halftime due to Gatton's improved tackling display and some ill discipline from the Bulldogs.
Tensions flared at times as both teams tried to muscle up in defence.
But it was Zampech's back-to-back tries after the break that got the Bulldogs going again with Mase'ese'e Kali and Israel Oti finishing the job.
Oti kicked a penalty goal in the final moments to seal the victory.
Gatton had earlier responded every time the Bulldogs attempted to build an advantage.
Two tries to winger Jayden Williams ensured the vastly improved Hawks didn't let the Bulldogs get away as they did against Norths Tigers a week earlier.
At 30-30, the Hawks were still in the hunt until West End finally shut down their attacking threat.
The Hawks generated some inspired attack with fullback Tyson White and lock Allan Morris scoring timely tries.
Zampech said halftime came at the right time for coach Jae Woodward to settle the Bulldogs big men down.
"We were told we can build,'' Zampech said. "We're just a team that's been put together in the last three weeks.''
Controlling play and letting the big men go forward made all the difference for the Bulldogs.
West End tackle the high-flying Goodna Eagles in their round 3 match next Saturday night.
The Eagles again turned it on in the second half to beat Norths Tigers 36-24.
Volunteers Cup 2nd round: West End Bulldogs 36 (Jesse Zampech 2, Kody Lake, Sione Foueti, Mase'ese'e Kali, Israel Oti, Elijah Umu tries; Regan Wilde 2, Israel Oti goals; Israel Oti penalty goal) def Gatton Hawks 30 (Jayden Williams 2, Tyson White, Oliver Bichel, Jobbaker Tamanabae, Allan Morris tries; Dylan Flanagan 3 goals).