Sport

Younger Barba grabs limelight for the Jets

TRY TIME: Ipswich Jets back Nemani Valekapa heads for the tryline in last weekend’s comprehensive Queensland Cup win over Mackay at the North Ipswich Reserve.
TRY TIME: Ipswich Jets back Nemani Valekapa heads for the tryline in last weekend’s comprehensive Queensland Cup win over Mackay at the North Ipswich Reserve. Kate Czerny

MARMIN Barba has not reached the heights of his illustrious older brother but the speedy winger has become a key man in the Ipswich Jets' premiership quest.

Marmin, brother of Broncos five-eighth Ben Barba, has been in superb form in recent weeks and looms as a game breaker in the Jets' Intrust Super Cup clash with the PNG Hunters in Kokopo today.

Barba scored 24 points from two tries and eight goals in the 62-10 win over Mackay last week.

Co-coach Ben Walker said Barba's influence on the team's success had grown as the season has progressed.

"In the last five or six weeks, he has really started to show his class and speed," Walker said.

"We are freeing him up a little bit too. We are happy for him to show those attributes.

"Instead of being a fast robot, he is back to being a speedy footballer.

"Marmin has been playing predominantly on the wing but he can fill in anywhere.

"He is versatile but his obvious strength is his speed so any time we can get him some clear ball in space, it is game over."

Walker said he expected Barba to shine against a PNG side that has big, strong athletes across the park.

"He is handy against anyone, but the bigger they are, the more damaging he is," Walker said.

"They are a big side but certainly not the biggest we have played.

"It will be a big test.

"They play a style we really enjoy playing against. They defend the way we want them to.

"So our attack won't be an issue, I don't think.

Whether it is players coming back from the NRL, or being promoted from the Ipswich Rugby League, part of the key to getting them performing for the Jets is knowing what makes them tick.

It can be the difference between a good coach and a bad one, but seems to be one aspect of coaching the Walker brothers have an affinity for.

"It's crucial," Walker said.

"You can't operate unless you know your players. You can't ask someone to do something if you don't know them."

Jets replacement back Wes Conlon and five-eighth Josh Cleeland, both former Swifts A graders, are prime examples.

After starring for Swifts in the IRL grand final in 2010, Conlon joined Souths Logan.

He was handed limited opportunities at the Magpies but has flourished on his return to the Jets. "We understand Wes really well," Walker said.

"We know what works for him.

"The style we play works for him.

"He's a pretty laid-back sort of fella and an exceptional talent.

"He suits the way we play.

"Josh Cleeland is the same.

"We recognised him about five years ago because we knew he was a good fit."

Game day

  • Qld Cup today: Ipswich Jets v PNG Hunters at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.
  • Head to head: Ipswich 1 PNG 0. Referee: Peter Gough.
  • State of play: The PNG Hunters face their moment of truth against Ipswich. A loss would almost certainly close the door on their top five aspirations while a victory would see them close to within one competition point of fifth-placed Jets.

Topics:  ipswich jets queensland cup