CHARGING BULL: Ipswich Jets strongman Tyson Lofipo. Picture: Rob Williams
CHARGING BULL: Ipswich Jets strongman Tyson Lofipo. Picture: Rob Williams

Why Jets at home provide a refreshing experience


ROUND one is here. Football returning is like opening up the fridge after mowing and your favourite beer being there.

The Jets and Blackhawks have clashed five times at the North Ipswich Reserve. Our northern foes are ahead three wins to two.

The clash of the forwards on Saturday will be the highlight.

One Blackhawk that will need stopping is Townsville powerhouse in name and actions Temone Power.

Power played for the Queensland Residents in 2019 and had a breakout year with 25 games and 10 tries. He was recognised as Blackhawks forward and player's player of the year.

The Jets will need to put a stop to his angled runs on the right hand side and any flat ball will find Power. Then it's a matter of how far those legs can keep pumping.

Power's try against the Residents last year was classic, set up and took the short ball on the right and just kept twisting and turning his big frame until he got over the line. He finished the game with four tackle breaks.

"It's always a challenge against Ipswich early in the season," Power said.

"It will be interesting to see what the change of coaching and players bring, but what I do know is Tyson Lofipo and Nat Neale will still be there doing their thing

"That big Lofipo right foot step."

The old bull Lofipo is entering season number 14 in the Intrust Super Cup. With that comes nearly 200 games of footwork and operating through and over the defence line.

Lofipo is stronger than he has ever been before and is ready to meet this round one Townsville pack head on.

Lofipo has been missing since round eight last season with his foot injury. He will be keen to take that first hit-up into the teeth of the Townsville pack and get that initial big contact out of the way.

"It's a bit like school starting again. I am pretty excited and ready to go," Lofipo said confidently.

"Blackhawks will be a great challenge. They have forwards like Power who really impressed me last year.

"When that ball goes up for the kick-off I will be putting my hand up for that first run and then you're back into footy again.

"Our focus this pre-season has been defence. Keiron and Mark Bishop have really focused on our contact and where we hit and why.

"We will have some young guys and it is important that they get to play with our leaders like Nat Neale so they understand what playing ISC is all about. It's important that they see him running hard in the 77th minute just like Danny Coburn did for me. It stays with you."

The Jets have not beaten the Townsville Blackhawks in Ipswich since round two in 2018. Overall, the Jets and Blackhawks are even at six wins each since 2015.

The mowing has finished, sit down and get ready to go.

Coaching baptism

TWELVE months ago, when round one came up, Blackhawks coach and Cowboys hooker for 219 games Aaron Payne found himself in the same position as Jets' Keiron Lander.

That is about to coach his first ISC game.

Twenty-five games later, Payne reflected on his year in charge of Townsville.

"We have had a much more settled pre-season and no monsoonal rain this summer, and we just know each other better," Payne said.

"The boys know me and know my coaching. We will focus on us and getting our football right not too worried about what the Jets might do. Although I suspect they will not change too much though Keiron will be his own man and change a few things.

"We have our things to get right first and our standards, that's really what you need to do the first rounds."

On the other side of halfway, Jets' mentor Lander is ready for game number one. Lander will be the Jets 10th coach in the ISC era and the 115th coach in the ISC.

"I am more excited than nervous,'' Lander said.

"You need to be aware of the day and the situation you can't go there thinking I am going to say this to this player before the game.

"Just be aware and less is more. I won't be saying too much just reminding them about our goals and want we want done."

Lander was sure about where he would be standing for his first game as coach.

"I will be on the sideline close to our players,'' he said. "I don't want to sit in the box or be on a mic."

Hot start to season

THE Jets Colts and Mal Meninga sides will take on the Blackhawks in round one in the first two games on Saturday.

In the Colts, the Blackhawks are coming off two minor premierships in a row. Townsville are always a massive team.

Blackhawks coach Dave Elliot was concerned with what the Townsville need to do.

"We always seem to get Ipswich at the start of the year and it's hot down there but we can't control that and it's not too different to home,'' he said.

"We will do some homework on Ipswich and be ready to go."

The Jets Brendon Marshall returns for another year of coaching the Colts. He will be looking for consistency and stability from the Jets on Saturday.

"We have had our core up training with the ISC guys which is great for their development but we need that stability back at Colts now for Saturday," Marshall said.

"I will just be looking for competing and combinations, both those things need to be there."

In the Mal Meninga competition, the Blackhawks missed the finals last year and North Queensland champion Matt Bowen will be looking to right that wrong in his second year of coaching Townsville.

The Jets got the win 32-26 last time but the Blackhawks unleashed Cowboys player Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow on Ipswich and he scored three tries.

"We won't have 'Hammer' this time. At times last season we were probably guilty of relying on him too much," Bowen reflected.

"I learnt from last year that you need to start well in this competition. You can't ease into the season when it's only six games."

Jets coach Michael Armstrong is starting his Mal Meninga competition-coaching career with confidence.

The hard work has been completed and the results will show if the Jets compete.

The Jets missed the finals last year finishing on equal points with Tweed.

"Compete is my message,'' Armstrong said. "If there is a ball on the ground compete for it, if the ball is in the scrum, compete for it in attack and defence.

"This competition is cut throat. Last year Jets missed the finals on points for and against to Tweed.

"Tweed won the whole thing and the state title. You can't start slowly or find your way."

Cooper's stat

ROUND one will be the Jets 257th home game. Ipswich is looking for win 124 in the Intrust Super Cup.

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