Why go-getter Mitch is vital to Ipswich's future
AS a chef, Ipswich Force go-getter Mitch Poulain enjoys cooking nutritional dishes.
So it is fitting Poulain is a key part of the healthy state league basketball team Ipswich is building for the future.
With Ipswich preparing for a finals-deciding road trip this weekend, Poulain's extra effort and enhanced opportunities could provide the difference.
He is one of the promising Ipswich-bred players being given additional responsibility by head coach Chris Riches.
"For the last couple of years I've been on the bench for Ipswich,'' the former Woodcrest College student said having come through the Force junior program over the past eight years.
"This is probably my first year of actually playing every game.
"I'm really enjoying it.''
Poulain, 20, has lined up in all 15 matches for Ipswich, regularly starting games in his first full season at a higher level.
"I've been learning a lot and the guys are a lot tougher so I have to play a lot harder,'' he said.
Ever-supportive Riches wants loyal local players like Poulain to represent their city in the hotly contested state league.
"He's still really young. He's one of the guys that we need to invest time in because we can see the potential there,'' Riches said.
"He's just got to mature . . . he understands that.''
Working as a chef with Force captain Jason Ralph and his mother Lindy at a Ripley cafe has given Poulain stability off the court as well.
"He's really keen to make a difference and he's one of those guys that coaches during the off-season for the association so I can't speak highly enough of him,'' Riches said.
"He's doing great things for himself and our association as well.''
Former Queensland Schoolboys representative Poulain appreciates the opportunity.
"I find that great. He's all about the local talent,'' Poulain said of his coach.
Poulain and his Ipswich teammates are preparing for a road trip that will decide whether the ninth-placed Force men qualify for this year's Queensland Basketball League playoffs.
After four wins in a row, Force fly to Mackay on Friday morning for a showdown against the competition leaders before travelling by bus to Rockhampton the next morning for their second weekend game.
Rockhampton are the team currently holding the last qualifying spot for the finals.
But after sharing in Ipswich's victory on his first senior team road trip to Gladstone recently, Poulain is keen for more success.
"We're hoping we can win both of them but we definitely need to win the Rockhampton game,'' he said.
"We expect to do well ourselves but I reckon we've surprised a few people.
"The past couple of weeks, we've really clicked as a team.''
The 205cm tall forward said that was highlighted in last weekend's successful winning double over South West Metro and North Gold Coast.
"It's mainly our team chemistry,'' he said. "We're playing for each other, not ourselves.''
The Ipswich player to watch appreciates the senior experience around him.
"The guys have been really helpful - like Jason, Kyle (vice-captain Kyle Harvey) and Garrett (import Garrett Hall).''
He said winning the recent tight games was especially satisfying. However, he credits a lot of that to the extra work at Ipswich Grammar School through the week.
"We're training a lot harder than I have ever trained before,'' he said.
The Ipswich Force women start their weekend road trip having already qualified for the finals.
Force are in second spot with 13 wins and two losses, behind Townsville with 14 wins and two defeats.
QBL men and women: Friday night - Ipswich Force v Mackay in Mackay.
Saturday night: Ipswich Force v Rockhampton in Rockhampton.