Taking care of business
THE Ipswich Jets won't face the same test of their ability or depth as they did last start when they take on Central Queensland this afternoon.
The club gave first grade debuts to three players in the 40-28 loss to PNG Hunters a fortnight ago, with just one - Richard Pandia - retained in the team this week.
Pandia went to PNG in place of left centre Nemani Valekapa, but remains in the side due to a calf injury to right centre Chris Walker.
"It was a surprise," he said of his elevation to the top grade.
"I thought it was going to be hard but after my first run I felt good. I told myself, 'Don't make any mistakes or drop any balls'."
Pandia could well have been up against his older brother Sebastian who plays for the Hunters.
But Sebastian was given extra time to return from an injury, so missed the opportunity.
The Pandias are from Port Moresby, with Richard moving to Townsville to attend high school before moving south to study.
He is in his second year both studying business management and with the Ipswich Jets.
"One of my mates knew Shane and Ben," he said of what brought him to the Jets.
"It was a good decision."
It has been a struggle at times, juggling footy and full-time study.
But cracking the NRL one day remains the dream and the business degree is security if it doesn't eventuate.
"Hopefully I get there," he said.
"If it doesn't happen I'll keep my head up and concentrate on my degree."
He was tempted to give footy away but has his mum, Theresa to thank for persisting.
Pandia describes her as his biggest inspiration.
"She said, 'Just keep going'," he said.
"She paid all my school fees and is the one who has supported me."
Pandia has felt at home since joining the Jets, partly because of the supportive nature of the club and partly because they play his type of footy.
"It was easy for me because when I played at school in Townsville we played the same style - play what's in front of us," he said.
"You come in and you feel like you're welcome. It's just a great atmosphere here."
Pandia considers his strength his willingness to rip in both in attack and defence.
His weakness, in his own opinion, is that his fitness could be better. But he wouldn't have been picked again this week if the Jets coaches were concerned about his ability to get through the match.
When he joined the Jets, Pandia was a hooker or lock.
"As soon as I got here they put me in the centres," he said.
Whether it is from his mother or his coaches, Pandia has shown he is more than willing to follow good advice.
- Junior club: Gulf West in Port Moresby
- Favourite player growing up: Dallas Johnstone
- Biggest influence: My mum
- Pre-match breakfast: Bacon and eggs on toast
- Teammate you'd least like to get stuck beside on a flight back from PNG: Josh Seage - He always picks on me.
- Queensland Cup: Ipswich Jets v CQ Capras at North Ipswich Reserve today at 4pm
- FOGS Colts: Ipswich Jets v Sunshine Coast at North Ipswich Reserve today at 2.15pm
- BRL: Ipswich Jets v Easts at Langlands Park tomorrow at 12.15pm