FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT: Ipswich Diggers coach Scott Ireland hopes to see the A-Grade competition improve in years to come.
FOCUS ON DEVELOPMENT: Ipswich Diggers coach Scott Ireland hopes to see the A-Grade competition improve in years to come. Inga Williams

A-Grade competition well-placed, says Ireland

THE Ipswich Diggers A-Grade representatives have given themselves a fighting chance of gaining selection in the South-east Queensland team.

Facing the old enemy in the weekend's Chairman's Challenge, the Diggers came away with a comprehensive first-up 36-10 win over Brisbane Red before falling away to a resounding 48-20 loss.

Though disappointed with the performance against Brisbane Blue, coach Scott Ireland was quietly confident Ipswich would be well represented in the South-east Queensland line-up.

"Unfortunately, yesterday's result means we probably won't have as many selected as we could have,” he said. "But no one would look out of place.

"It should still be the best representation we've had for a number of years.”

Ireland said his team did not have a bad player in its opening match but its title chances slipped away after starting dreadfully on Sunday.

"We had one bad half of football and it really cost us,” he said.

"It was an outstanding performance on Saturday featuring wonderful attack.

"We got in the grind early and earned the right to attack.

"We were very skilful and our defence was rock solid.

"Imagine what we could have done if we hadn't fallen away with our ball control.

"But it is not something I'll dwell on.”

Ireland said halves Mitchell Range and Chris Ash offered great direction, while frontrowers Josh Afoa and Zach Lemberg provided ample go forward from the engine room.

Goodna's Ramon Filipine, Fassifern's Jacob Lindsey and West End's Kelepi Faukafa also impressed the coach.

Ireland said the results indicated the Ipswich A-Grade competition was well placed in terms of quality and if the right junior development structure was put in place over the next five years Diggers would soon be trumping the city-slickers.

"We've got good players,” he said. "And I think our top teams would be competitive in the BRL and Gold Coast competition.

"But we need to strengthen our lower tier and get the lower teams up to the standard of the top sides. We've got the base there to develop.

"Hopefully in the future we'll have more players of Queensland Cup standard filtering back into the competition.”

Ireland said he had not worked in the junior system and was unable to support or refute the claims of Ipswich Diggers Under-20s coach Chris Doyle.

But he called for a review of the Under-20s competition, which has been struggling for numbers and only features four teams at present.

"There are not enough teams to make the Under-20s competition viable,” Ireland said.

"In my opinion, if you are above 18 and you are playing footy, you are a senior footballer.”

Tom Bushnell