Beware Brothers: Footy stalwart rebuilds powerful unit
HAVING lost a majority of their 2019 premiership-winning side and taking a year off, Brothers Ipswich could have been scratching for A-Grade players this season.
But typical of Brothers professionalism, the powerhouse Ipswich club has rebuilt and recruited well for their first game of the 2021 Rugby League Ipswich competition.
Back for his fourth season as head coach, club stalwart Jason Connors said he had "less than half'' of his side that beat Swifts 35-10 in the 2019 grand final.
After Brothers sat out last year's makeshift Volunteers Cup competition, a number of players moved to other sports or devoted more time to their families.
Preparing for Brothers' opening 2021 clash against home side Fassifern on Sunday, Connors has played his usual vital club role.
He helped assemble a 25-strong squad that has been training since September, working around some "chaotic'' COVID challenges, wet weather disruptions and finalising the competition this year.
Other than those issues, he said Brothers were progressing well for a new season.
"It's going along nicely,'' he said of his team, excited about a first-round clash against the settled and confident Fassifern outfit.
Given last year's events, Connors said Brothers had targeted players from outside and promoted footballers from the club's development system.
"We go and try to fill the void of what went away and replace them with what we had at the club or we need to go get,'' he said.
Josh Leishmann has taken over as club captain with 2019 premiership-winning leader Wes Conlon at the Ipswich Jets.
"He (Leishmann) is nearly a 180 gamer now,'' Connors said.
"I'm happy with Josh being captain, how he's playing - to take over from Wes when Wes is not around.''
Connors is keen to get his new-look side out on the paddock doing what Brothers do best - mounting a strong challenge to all rivals.
He had mixed feelings about his team having a break from the Ipswich competition and what it involved to run the game "with all the hype around COVID''.
"We lost a lot of players . . . but I think it was best to have that year off,'' he said.
Connors said he would have liked more than the two trials Brothers contested against Logan Brothers.
"We only had one A-Grade and one Reserve Grade trials so we been underdone with trials,'' he said.
However, he was ready for the next challenge having been one of Brothers most successful footballers.
"I'd rather play,'' he said. "It's cruel when you can't control every situation.
"But I'm enjoying the transition into coaching and getting involved in junior development.''
As for the addition of a Jets team in this year's A-Grade competition, Connors supported it provided it looked after the club players.
"If it's organised, I don't have a problem with it,'' he said.
"No one knows what is actually going on (regarding the players moving between the Jets and their former clubs).
"I think it is great for the competition but it has to be run properly.''
RLI A-Grade Rd 1
Saturday (6pm): Jets v Swifts at Rosewood (Mill St).
Sunday (3pm): Goodna v West End at Richardson Park, Goodna; Fassifern v Brothers at Hayes Oval, Harrisville.