'Awesome' Jets send Ipswich fans into frenzy
THE Ipswich Jets are back in town and don't the fans love it.
The wonderful scenes on and off the North Ipswich Reserve after Ipswich's 28-16 state league win lifted the spirits of everyone loyal to the rugby league club.
The dressing room was overflowing with emotion after Ipswich secured its first victory on the season, fittingly as co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker celebrated their 200th Intrust Super Cup game in charge.
While Ben was modest about the milestone, he left no doubt how he felt after the Jets shut out Northern Pride 22-0 in the first half before holding out the fast-finishing visitors from the north.
"It was awesome,'' Walker said, emerging from a joyous dressing room.
"We haven't played great the first two weeks and last week was awesome and today we were terrific.
"We scored 28 points in a way which was a great achievement as it was really boggy out there.''
It started raining during the earlier Colts match won 24-10 by Pride and continued throughout the Intrust Super Cup encounter.
However, the Jets produced their best half of footy this season, capitalising on the tremendous second period they turned on against last year's grand finalists Easts a week earlier.
Fullback Michael Purcell ended his try-scoring drought, securing four-pointers either side of halftime.
"I thought I was going crazy in my head because I hadn't scored any yet,'' Purcell said after the game.
"I definitely had a quiet start to the season.''
Winger Marmin Barba had another outstanding game finishing just two points short of 500 after kicking four conversions. He came close to scoring the extra points he needed before being shunted into touch.
"Marmin is a huge part of our success so it's good to see him improve,'' Walker said.
Centre Richard Pandia had a strong match, scoring Ipswich's second try after halfback Julian Christian gave the Jets their best start of the season.
Jayden Connors also had a terrific game at hooker, lifting his attack and diving over to score the Jets' third try.
Although conceding three tries in the second half, the Jets threatened to break the 50 point barrier only for some last-gasp dropped ball or desperate Pride tackles in the rainy conditions.
After receiving the Players' Player award against Easts, five-eight Josh Cleeland had another superb game, especially with his lethal bombs in the wet conditions.
Halfback partner Christian also looked more relaxed, spreading the ball freely and creating a number of dangerous attacking raids.
"Julian and Josh are possibly sleeping giants in attack,'' Walker said. "They are only going to get better each week.''
The number of terrific breaks, showcasing the Jets' trademark razzle dazzle football, proved the Jets backline was igniting again. The Jets kept passing the ball like it was slippery soap.
"When we move it around, we trouble everyone,'' Walker said.
The Jets big men Ben Shea and Nat Neale also led from the front, exerting their strength.
As Walker chatted, he continued to shake the hands of fans and supporters who are an important part of the Jets' extended family.
He preferred to share the latest success with others rather than accepting any plaudits for what he and brother Shane had achieved.
"It doesn't matter really to us whether it's 200 or 300 or 100,'' he said. "It's just more important to win and it's great for the boys who have worked really hard in the pre-season.
"We know we've got a really good footy team. It's only a matter of time before we go on a really good run of wins.
"I think we started it today.''
As the Jets looked excitedly ahead to next week's clash with Redcliffe, the Pride players had plenty to ponder on their long flight home to Cairns.
State of play
Intrust Super Cup Rd 4: Ipswich Jets 28 (Michael Purcell 2, Julian Christian, Richard Pandia, Jayden Connors tries; Marma Barba 4 conversions) def Northern Pride 16 (Brad Stephen, Matthew Musemeci, Enari Tuala tries; Braydon Torpey 2 conversions) at the North Ipswich Reserve.