FORMER schoolmates Chris Ash and Mikaere Beattie are preparing for their biggest test of the 2016 rugby league season.
Playing alongside each other in the halves for the Ipswich Jets Reserves, the former St Peter Claver students will today suit up against the Redcliffe Dolphins in the BRL grand final.
Each enjoying stints in the Intrust Super Cup throughout the year, Ash said his former schoolmate had high hopes as the defending premiers look to secure back-to-back premierships.
"Since going up to Cup Beattie has come back with a lot more confidence," Ash said. "He's usually not one to say too much on the field and instead lead by example.
"Now he's talking more and it's great to see him take on that role. I have known him since high school and I've always trusted playing alongside him on the footy field."
Named captain of the BRL side this season, Ash was pulled up into the Intrust Super Cup squad where he earned time with the Queensland Rangers representative side, while Beattie similarly enjoyed stints in the top grade.
After a 10-game winning streak saw the Jets lead the competition for much of the year, a third-place finish at the end of the season meant Ipswich needed to win tough games against West Brisbane and Wynnum to reach the finals.
Played in torrential rain, last week's semi-final against the second-placed Wynnum Seagulls was a confidence-booster for the Ipswich players.
Expecting the Seagulls pack to stamp their authority on their smaller statured opposition, the Jets fought back to claim victory and a spot in today's grand final.
"That rain and that field suited Wynnum to a tee," Ash said. "They play conservative football and rely on their big forwards to take the ball up through the middle, which is the opposite of us. To win the way we did and with a few injuries at the start of the game was really satisfying."
With Ono So'Oialo racing the clock to overcome a leg injury, the only team change for today's final will be the inclusion of Isi Hafoka who has been called upon to resume his fullback role.
It's a role Hafoka is used to after playing most of last year at the number one spot during the Jets first BRL premiership. However the fleet-footed fullback will be keen to avoid a similar incident in last year's grand final which saw his break his leg during the Jets title victory.
"He's a gun," Ash said.
"He's been around the Jets for a few years now and was our regular fullback last year. It took him a while to get his confidence back after breaking his leg, but last week Isi was one of our best players on the ground and he'll be there no matter what."
With a final hurdle against the Dolphins between the Jets and second straight premiership, Ash said he would look to the tough country boys of Ben Sullivan and Rowan Winterfield in defence.
"All those Brisbane teams play a similar type of football," Ash said. "We need to make sure our defence is solid and the attack will flow from there.
"We haven't talked much about (the title defence) but you don't go to a grand final to lose. There will be a few extra nerves but once you get into the game that all goes away."
The Brisbane Rugby League grand final between the Ipswich Jets and Redcliffe Dolphins will kick off from 3.30pm today at Bishop Park.
1. Isi Hafoka
2. Francis Ledger
3. Josh Damen
4. Nathan Gaulton
5. Finecallum Faingaa
6. Mikaere Beattie
7. Chris Ash
8. David Tahavalu
9. Peter Whittaker
10. Rowan Winterfield
11. Abraham Atallah
12. Matthew Brown
13. Hugh Sedger
14. Ben Sullivan
15. Lachlan Roe
16. Jackson Tynan
17. Max Felosi
18. Toby Key
19. Dan O'Reilly
Coach: Mark Bishop