Dynamic Jets duo re-sign for 2019
THE IPSWICH Jets have moved quickly to re-sign two of their most dynamic playmakers amid anticipated interest from rival clubs.
Michael Purcell and Jayden Connors this week extended their time at the Jets into the 2019 season, and CEO Jason Cubit said the club opted to make retaining the two livewires a priority.
"I think players as exciting as Jayden and Michael are always going to attract attention from other clubs,” he said.
"We wanted to make sure we locked them down as soon as we could.”
Purcell, 24, has 51 tries in 53 games for the Jets over three seasons.
He debuted in round 1 of the 2016 season, scoring in 38-24 win over Norths Devils.
"The Kangaroo Catcher” has crossed the line 15 times in as many matches in 2018, including back-to-back hat-trick hauls just two weeks returned from a broken arm.
"He hasn't skipped a beat since he's been back from injury,” Cubit said of Purcell.
"His try-scoring feats speak for itself. He can break a game wide open, which is obviously very exciting for people that come along to games, and important from the team's point of view as well.
"We're extremely thankful to have him back on board.”
Connors, 23, was made to bide his time in the Jets' BRL side last season before breaking through to play four matches at the end of the year.
His round 21 debut was one to remember, scoring twice as the Jets defeated the Northern Pride 32-22 at North Ipswich Reserve.
Connors has played in every game in 2018, starting in the Jets' past six matches with incumbent hooker Kierran Moseley recovering from a broken leg.
The fleet-footed Connors has taken the opportunity with both hands, with six tries in his past 10 matches testament to the improvement in the playmaker's game.
"I guess it's been a breakout year for him,” Cubit said of Connors.
"His football has gone to another level this season. After Kierran's injury, he's taken over the hooking role, played big minutes and has been outstanding.
"The try he scored on the weekend against the Capras where he broke the fullback's ankles, it's one of those steps you might see from a Kalyn Ponga or Tuivasa-Sheck.
"He's someone we see having a big future at our club and hopefully a higher level at some point.”
Cubit said "about half” of the Jets' playing roster were in year one of two-year deals, with the other half all in line to be re-signed before next season.
"People like Nat Neale, Tyson Lofipo, Mitch Carpenter . . . those kinds of blokes are already signed on for next year,” he said.
"It's just a matter of wrapping up all of the guys off-contract this year. We'll work through those.
"The plan basically is to re-sign everyone in our current squad and hopefully add one or two more from outside the club.”
Some clubs prefer to keep contract negotiations on-hold until the end of the playing season, for fear of becoming an added distraction.
Cubit believes the opposite to be true.
"I think it can help a guy, knowing the club wants him and he has a future here,” Cubit said.
"It can really held their football to know there's stability. We don't see it as being an impact on their footy at all.”
Admittedly not boasting the same player budget as some other big clubs in the Intrust Super Cup, Cubit said the Jets' retention of players was down to more than just what the club offers on the footy field.
"I think (Purcell and Connors) recognise and understand the opportunities the club has given them, not just from a football sense,” Cubit said.
"Jayden is doing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and Michael is working for Shane (Walker's) recruitment firm.
"It's more than just about he football side of things. The boys recognise we're looking out for them in all aspects.”
Expect Purcell and Connors to play big roles against Tweed Heads in Saturday's pivotal clash at North Ipswich Reserve.