Ipswich Force off-season recruit Amy Lewis is settling well into her new team's style of play, looking more comfortable heading into an important QBL road trip this weekend.
Ipswich Force off-season recruit Amy Lewis is settling well into her new team's style of play, looking more comfortable heading into an important QBL road trip this weekend. Rob Williams

Why Ipswich teams bracing for one of toughest road trips

BASKETBALL: Control what you can, prepare well and enjoy the challenge.

That's how Ipswich Force men's coach Chris Riches is approaching this weekend's road trip to Townsville and Cairns, one of the toughest legs in the Queensland Basketball League season.

"It's getting our players to become relaxed in that environment,'' Riches said.

"Making sure that they have time time to eat, rest, get a shoot-around in those locations is always good.''

He said it was important to make flying time as comfortable as possible to avoid that becoming a burden outside of the games.

"So we try to minimise those things by having an earlier start so we can have a little bit of rest before the game and stuff like that,'' he said.

"It does pay off dividends later on.

"You get used to it and it's just about trying to control the things that you can control and those things you can't, you just roll with the punches when they happen.''

That's why the Ipswich Force men's and women's team fly to Townsville on Friday morning to prepare for their evening games.

The Ipswich teams then bus it to Cairns the next day for Saturday night's games in that city.

"It's probably one of the more challenging starts that you can have in the QBL,'' Riches said.

"Just the way the draw's work out - as well as having the game (against Sunshine Coast) that got postponed - our first five games have been against the northern teams.

"Perenially, they (the northern teams) usually fill up four out of the eight spots within the top eight.''

However, Riches sees a benefit in such an early mission.

"It's a really good test for us building on the season and set our own tempo about how the development has been going and where we want to be,'' he said.

"At the moment with one win and two losses, it's a valuable learning opportunity for us to take stock of where we are at and know exactly what those yardsticks are going to be. And it allows us to appraise ourselves so moving into the future we know what we've got to improve on to really compete in those games.''

Enhancing the challenge is teams like Cairns have direct links to the National Basketball League where some players are training and playing in that environment as well as the state league.

Force import Jayden Ferguson is expected to join the team heading north after visiting a specialist before leaving. Ferguson was being monitored with a hyperflexion injury to his knee during training.

The Force men will test themselves having beaten Gladstone in the second game of last Saturday's doubleheader, after losing to Rockhampton on Friday night.

Fresh from his team's winning double last weekend, Force women's coach Brad George was also preparing for a massive test in Townsville and Cairns. The trip is unusually early this season and "not something you do every week''.

"You go up there and they play really hard basketball, physical and fast,'' George said.

"If you're half a sleep or off the boil, you're caught out.''

However, the experienced coach said winning both matches at home last weekend provided a timely boost.

He's encouraged to see Force newcomers Amy Lewis, Kaili McLaren and Mikaela King finding their range in a mobile and usually well-organised team.

"They are definitely starting to settle in,'' George said.

"They are all starting to work out their roles and rotations a bit better.''

Game day

QBL: Friday - Ipswich v Townsville in Townsville. Women play at 6pm with men's encounter at 8pm.

Saturday: Ipswich v Cairns in Cairns. Women play at 6pm with men's game at 8pm.