‘Surprise’ QSL quality bolsters Ryan’s Ipswich return
LINING up for Ipswich in this year's Queensland State League (QSL) has been a homecoming for durable basketballer Ryan Jeffries.
About to turn 34, Jeffries can look back on what it was like for him as he links with Ipswich's next generation of emerging talent.
He spent nine years in Ipswich's basketball program before pursuing other state and national league opportunities.
After being lured back after stints in Rockhampton and with the Brisbane Capitals, Jeffries was preparing to help Ipswich in the inaugural NBL1 North competition.
But when the expanded state league competition was delayed due to the coronavirus, he chose to stick with Ipswich in the inaugural QSL.
"I've been away for a little while due to circumstance and where I've been living and whatnot,'' he said.
"It's good to be back to where it all started.''
Jeffries has played in all seven QSL matches, helping Force build a five win, two loss record.
After thinking the QSL was just a pre-season style competition, Jeffries has found the revised series beneficial.
"I'm quite surprised,'' the shooting guard, small forward said.
"I thought it was going to be a bit of a nothing competition but a lot of teams have brought in some top quality NBL guys and everyone is making the most of it.
"I think everyone was very keen to have a run after such a long stint away from it.
"Everyone's keen, everyone is playing hard.
"It's onwards and upwards for the club.''
Jeffries is enjoying his senior role alongside Bullets recruit Nathan Sobey, remembering when current players like captain Jason Ralph were kids.
"The last time I played for Ipswich, a lot of these guys were nine, 10,'' he said, in his 19th season of state league basketball.
"I've known Jason since he was four.''
That's why he accepts a guidance role in the current Force team.
"I think you sort of have to,'' Jeffries said. "You're obligated as a senior player.
"Guys who have got more experience, if you are not passing that on to the younger guys, you are not doing your job.
"All the young guys are great. They listen.''
He said new teammates like Joel Rees and Cooper Ward have massive potential and Michael Fleming is another exciting prospect.
Unless circumstances change dramatically, he plans to remain with Ipswich Force in the second attempt to launch the NBL1 North competition next year.
Preparing for Force's latest Division 1 clash with cellar-dwellers North Gold Coast at Runaway Bay on Saturday night, Jeffries said no team can be taken lightly.
"The two losses that we had we really shouldn't have lost,'' he said.
"But that's how it goes . . . you have to adjust and work on things. We'll be better for it.''
The carpenter grew up in Ipswich, playing club basketball for Easts aged eight before moving into the representative program at 14.
After nine years playing for Ipswich, he headed to Rockhampton for a year before another stint with Force when Olympian Shane Heal coached the side in 2012.
The former Bundamba State Secondary College student then ventured to the Brisbane Capitals and was a junior Bullet for a while.
Aged 23, he played some pre-season games with NBL club Gold Coast Blaze.
Although he was just outside the cut-off age for that program, he rated the training "a good experience.''.
As for working with Force head coach Chris Riches, Jeffries said he admired his work ethic and passion.
"I like it,'' he said.
"It think the work that he does away from the court is probably where he's most successful.
"He does a lot of Facebook work and he's does a lot of videos, a lot of prep for training.
"I think that's a real testament to his passion for the game.''
The Ipswich Force women also play North Gold Coast in their QSL Division 1 match on Saturday.