How Jets are matching Norths' hard men
A TRIP to Bishop Park is like going to visit your aunty when you are a kid. It is a lot of time with no reward.
Norths' hard man of their 1980 premiership side - and Ben and Shane Walker's dad Gary Walker - explained why Bishop Park was not a desired place to go.
"It used to be a dump before it was a football field and the field would cave in and have big hallows and it was rock hard,'' Gary said. "Then of course there would be fights and hard men like Zulu to meet you.
"It's always a hard place to go and Norths know it. I think Bob Bax would have created it in the 1960 when they were on that unbelievable run."
The last time the Jets travelled to Bishop Park it was their season on the line in round 24 last year. The Jets had to win to claim a finals' spot and came away 22-14 winners to line up the next week in the Elimination Final in Townsville.
The Jets' record against Norths is not great - 19 wins from 46 games. The Jets have won eight, lost 12 and drawn one at Bishop Park.
Ipswich have gone a long way to correcting their Northside troubles. Since 2014, the Jets have beaten Norths eight out of the past 11 times.
One of those losses was in round six earlier this season when Norths beat the Jets 31-14.
The Jets were exceptional against the Pride last weekend.
With 56% of the ball and 35 more runs, the Pride were struggling to hold the Jets.
The Jets made seven line breaks to two in a dominant display with the ball.
The Jets forwards were running rampant and a big part of that was front rower Blake Lenehan.
The hard-running forward has been playing his best football the past two weeks.
In his 12th game, Lenehan has been pivotal in the Jets winning two games in a row.
Against the Pride he played 47 minutes and picked up where he did against the Tigers where he ran straight and hard for over 100 metres.
"I think the key to us playing well is overcoming that first 20 minute grind," Lenehan said.
"If we get through that then we settle down and play football and I think we win games if we win that 20 minutes.
"That will be our goal again against Norths, win that 20 minutes.
"Our on line defence has been strong too. They're two things we need to keep getting right."
Norths are coming off a loss to the Falcons. The Falcons got away to 26-0 and Norths did very well to hold them to just four points in the second half.
Norths' fullback and attacking lynchpin Jack Ahearn was looking to rectify the slow start.
"Falcons scored some opportunistic tries and Rueben was fast and suddenly it's 26-0," Ahearn said.
"We didn't start well against the Magpies either so that's twice in three weeks we have let teams get away from us and we need to be working on that consistency within games.
"We pegged them back so that's a positive to take away."
The past two weeks the Jets have held the Tigers and Pride to zero at halftime and had their best starts in defence and attack.
Battling Ipswich, Alf
CRAIG Grauf was 18 years old when he was made captain of Norths and his debut in the same game.
He joined players like Greg Dowling and Paul McCabe in the side. The young half fronted up for his captaincy debut for Norths in 1986 in round one playing Wynnum with Wally Lewis as captain. A more daunting task in Brisbane League probably doesn't exist.
Grauf spoke about his battles with Ipswich and Alfie Langer.
"In 1987 they were talking about myself or Alf as the Queensland half when Mark Murray got hurt," Grauf said.
"I remember Tony Durkin writing in Rugby League Week about the two 'little mice chasing the cheese'.
"At Norths I had our coach Greg Oliphant championing my cause and Alf had Tommy making sure everyone knew he should be Queensland half.
"Add into the mix Oliphant and Tommy didn't get on when they played but everyone knows they got on off the field.
"I enjoyed trips to Ipswich, Jets were the new boys in 1986 and always a bit of intrigue about these guys like Langer we were hearing about a lot."
IT was like when Lennon told McCartney he was breaking up the Beatles.
Last Saturday the unthinkable happened and Ben Walker didn't coach the Jets with Shane Walker.
For the first time in 11 years Ben Walker missed a Jets game. For the first time in 215 games as head coaches, Shane Walker went it alone as a solo artist.
"It was a strange feeling watching and not being on the sideline," Ben said.
"I wasn't frustrated at all, we are playing so well at the moment that it wasn't stressful.
"I spoke to Shane at halftime. It's hard to get a feel for the interchange because you can't see the whole field. I didn't enjoy that part.''
Shane Walker took up position without his brother beside him on the sideline.
"Now I will have the ISC coaching record in a few weeks and Ben will be one game behind me," Shane laughed.
"I am one from one 100% coaching record."
Key Titans questions
SPEAKING of the Walkers, the Titans' coaching position is up for grabs again for 2020.
I asked NRL 360 host and one of league's best critical minds Ben Ikin what questions he would ask if he was conducting the interview.
"I would ask two questions," Ikin said.
"What changes would you make to the roster? Tell me why your unique style of attack would work in the NRL.
"That's what I want to know if I am conducting the interview.
"What I would be looking for within those answers are who you're replacing? Cost implications, and why and how the decision would be beneficial to the Titans and then question two why the system was created, specific examples (on video) of where the system has worked, and training plans to support its introduction.''
MARMIN Barba needs three points for 600 Intrust Super Cup points. That will make him the 21st player to score 600 points in the competition.
A cold beer with . . .
In 141 Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland, Jimmy Maher was the rock of the Bulls. Shield finals piled up like his 9933 runs. I put on my floppy fielding hat, walked to the centre with Jimmy and had a quiet beer and chat.
You won six Shield finals for Queensland. What can other teams learn from that Bulls side? We had great depth and a good mixture of youth and experience. We had old heads like Border, Rackemann, Tazelaar and Barsby who had experienced some pain and then we had young guys like Martin Love, Matty Hayden and Andy Bichel. We worked really hard together throughout the season and were all on the same page helping each other out and working towards a common goal. On and off the field we were really closeknit and everyone did their job and we enjoyed each other's company. It's just a game and if you don't find that balance it's a long season.
You love your Bulldogs? Yeah I do. My brother loved the Bulldogs and when I was a kid we were always underdogs against the red-hot Eels in the early 80s. I never miss a game they are playing. It's been a tough few years but despite not getting the results I enjoy the effort they put in. I have a soft spot for the Cowboys because I am from North Queensland and if the Bulldogs aren't playing I watch the Cowboys. I just loved that Dogs line-up of the 80's and there were no Queensland teams in the comp back then so even though there is now I couldn't change teams. Once a fan, a fan for life I say whether they are going good or bad.
You are a Northside boy. Do you love your Norths Devils or does your Cairns love take over and you are Pride man? Northern Pride are my team. I really enjoy the Intrust Super Cup. I am from Cairns so they're my local team but then when I came down to Brisbane for cricket I lived on the north side and of course my good mate Trevor Gillmeister played for Norths.
Favourite Ipswich footballer? Alfie Langer. He comes on Bulls Masters trips with us and is just great value. He loves his cricket and I love my league so we get on really well. He's just a great bloke with so much character and he is the best company you could have.
You won a World Cup in 2003. How did you think the Aussies fared in England this year? The 2003 World Cup is the best cricket tour you could have. We won the tournament undefeated in among a host of distractions and hiccups like losing Warne and Gillespie. This year was an amazing tournament and although we fell short in the semi-final I still feel that we had a good tournament and there is plenty to be excited about moving forward.
The Ashes are not too far away. Does Australia win? I think our bowlers are the key. That's our strength but a lot will depend on conditions and if our batsmen can get the runs we need, I think they can they're all very capable. The weather in the UK can play a part but given the sun shines and there are few interruptions I think we will win 3-2, no draws. The danger games for us are Edgbaston and Headingly. Traditionally we play well at Lords and I think the Old Trafford wicket will suit us and the last test at the Oval is tough to call. A fascinating series beckons. Hopefully the Poms are still drunk on the World Cup.