Matt Ballin. Picture: Brett Costello
Matt Ballin. Picture: Brett Costello

Grand final winner’s memories of trying to ‘contain’ Ipswich


Michael Nunn

MATT Ballin might have been a Clydesdale once but he took flight and became a Sea Eagle at the beach but did not forget trips to Ipswich and the battles with another bird.

For 31 Intrust Super Cup games, Matt Ballin hooked and schemed his way around the field for Toowoomba in the Intrust Super Cup.

Ballin scored 10 tries and kicked one goal in his Queensland league career from 2002-04 before heading off the Manly Sea Eagles.

It is at Manly that Ballin would play 217 games and win two grand finals out of three and play one Origin game for Queensland.

"Ipswich means Ricky Bird, that's who I remember going to Ipswich to contain,'' Ballin said.

"Ricky is from Cherbourg and I am from Kingaroy so he was a few years older than me but I was fully aware of Bird coming through then I get to play against him.

"You had to be careful not to stop and watch Ricky even on the other team you could sit and watch him.

"I am Godfather to former Jet Paul Stephenson's son Sam too.

"There is another link to Ipswich for you.

"I loved those Toowoomba days, was a great mix out there with the Broncos players and a few locals thrown in as well.

"Long bus trips I remember that.''

Another Jet Steve Matai turned into a Sea Eagle and played a big part in Matt Ballin's footy story.

"Stevie was a Jet and I played against him when he was at Ipswich and I was in Toowoomba," Ballin recalled.

"Hardest hitter I have ever played with or against.

"He always had my back and everyone who played with him had his. Great person to play with and a great mate.

"Most feared defender of the decade."

Matt Ballin. Picture : Gregg Porteous
Matt Ballin. Picture : Gregg Porteous

Ballin fills his time now with the dual role at Manly with Education and on Des Hasler's coaching staff.

"I am a qualified teacher and I taught maths and physical education,'' he said.

"It's good having the two footy roles. Keeps me busy."

Working with another teacher in Des Hasler, has had an impact on Ballin's attention to detail in and outside the classroom.

"Des Hasler, is meticulous for detail," Ballin recalled.

"He covers everything from what types of balls we use at training.

"If we were training for wet weather games, he would make sure the balls we used at training were wet.

"Players know when you came into a video session or a training session you have to be 100% switched on.

"I don't think he was a naturally good coach either, he was just a hard-worker.

"He just covered everything and had some really great people around him that were able to cover every aspect of a rugby league player."

Broncos Head of Performance Unit, Alex Corvo, with Aidon Humbert of Raceview. Picture: Peter Cronin
Broncos Head of Performance Unit, Alex Corvo, with Aidon Humbert of Raceview. Picture: Peter Cronin

High performance strength behind Qld, NRL teams

WHEN the Queensland Origin team assembles for game one on November 4, the voice driving the performance will be performance manager Alex Corvo.

Corvo has been around league his whole life, finding a way to stay involved after five NRL games for the Raiders in a glorious lime green era and then performance manager at the Storm, Broncos, Salford, Warriors and Raiders add in the Queensland Origin job since 2016 and the Kangaroos.

The list of coaches out of that Raiders and Sheens system has been astronomical with four premiership-winning coaches coming from Tim Sheens - Paul Green, Michael McGuire, Craig Bellamy and Ricky Stuart.

They were along with Mal Meninga, Dean Lance, Royce Simmons, David Furner, Shaun McRae, John Morris, John Cartwright, Andrew Dunemann, Ivan Henjak and Todd Payten.

"It's largely due to Tim Sheens and he was a very good teacher at working out the little things very thoroughly,'' Corvo said.

"Sheens taught all those players that you can only do big things after you've done the little things really well."

Tim Sheens..Picture Gregg Porteous
Tim Sheens..Picture Gregg Porteous

Corvo would take a quick swim in the rapid moving water of coaching with Redcliffe in 1999 taking the Dolphins to the promise land of a grand final only to lose 12-10 to the Rick Stone Bears after winning 18 games and the minor premiership.

The Dolphins would lose to the Bears in the major semi and then get back on track with a 26-22 win over their northside rivals the Devils before losing to the Bears on the big day.

"I was doing the strength and conditioning at Wests with Wayne Treleaven and he would engage me to do a little assistant coaching too," Corvo remembered.

"We played Redcliffe at Redcliffe in the prelim final that year and won 27-14 in a massive upset.

"I had put together a tip sheet on Redcliffe and at the end of the game we have all left and someone at Dolphins was cleaning up and found my sheet I had prepared for our game

"They were pretty impressed and thought it was spot on and offered me the Dolphins coaching job for 1999.

"I wasn't that keen to get into coaching I wanted to do strength and conditioning."

Corvo would take the wheel at Dolphin Oval for 12 months and then off to the Raiders.

"I got the job at the Raiders and headed off there under Mal Meninga for two years,'' he said.

"Mal got moved on and so I went to England with Salford."

Storm coach Craig Bellamy. Picture: Scott Barbour
Storm coach Craig Bellamy. Picture: Scott Barbour

Melbourne had appointed Craig Bellamy as their new head coach in 2003 and he would keep his promise to Corvo and bring him back to Australia.

"Craig always promised if he got a head coaching role he would have me as his strength and conditioner so I was in England checking to see if Craig had a job yet," he said.

"I remember reading he'd said no to the Tigers job and I was disappointed.

"I wanted to come home.

Bellamy took the Storm job and Corvo would stay at the Storm for 11 years under the guidance of Bellamy.

Learning a lot about leadership and empowerment at the Storm.

"The leaders at the Storm not only have their own high standards of performance but also have an effect on everyone else's performance."

From there Corvo would move to the Broncos and Warriors with the Australian Kangaroos from 2009-15.

The role that unites Corvo with Ipswich's favourite son Kevvie Walters is the Queensland Origin team.

"It's very different performance managing during Origin to a club team," Corvo said.

"It's a different skill to manage the performance of a team over 10 days to 10 months.

"You are not going to change them too much in the 10 days you have them so it's not about improving them

"In the representative teams, you just want to freshen them up and return them to their club not hurt or damaged.

"If you introduce a new exercise or change things too much the clubs are not going to be too happy with you.

"It's a lot more personal when you work for a club because I think those players represent you; I take a lot of personal pride in the players at the club.

"Losing Origin hurts as much as any big club game or grand final and I really want to win this year.''

That is the sort of performance the whole of Queensland wants from the Maroons in 2020 and Corvo will be determine to make it happen.

Cooper's stat

MATT Ballin FOG number 170: One game, 96 possessions, 29 tackles, 62 minutes, four runs.