Jets big man admits 'there's always a few nerves'
EVEN a seasoned campaigner like Ben Shea gets nervous preparing for his first hit-out of the season.
The second-year Ipswich Jet returned to the field for the first time in 2019, in Saturday's trial against Easts Tigers at Langlands Park.
Easts prevailed 16-8.
It might surprise some fans who last season became accustomed to watching Shea run headlong through a proverbial brick wall, that even one of the Intrust Super Cup's best forwards has pause for concern when running the ball or making a tackle.
But just as the heavy weights lifted and lengthy distances covered during pre-season are there to improve strength and fitness, so-to are trials necessary to recondition the body to the rigours of elite rugby league.
"There's always a few nerves leading into that first (game),” Shea said.
"Going into that first trial when you're warming up, you're thinking, 'I've got to make my first full-on tackle for three months'.
"I think that's where the extra nerves come from. But a lot of it is muscle memory; get the first one out of the way and it's good.”
Providing a peek behind the curtain, Shea admitted the Jets do not incorporate as much full-contact training in pre-season like most of their Queensland Cup rivals.
It makes trials like Saturday against Easts that much more important as the Jets prepare for Townsville on March 10.
But Shea sees the lack of contact work as a positive, and pointed to 2018 as a prime example.
"Other clubs are probably going full contact two, three times a week whereas with us we don't do that much,” he said.
"I think it's much better on the body that way. Going through the season you feel a lot fresher because you're not punishing your body (in pre-season).”
The Jets used just 26 players across the season - testament to a lack of injuries in the squad.
Missing a host of likely starters including Josh Cleeland, Richard Pandia, Marmin Barba and Jayden Connors, Shea said the Jets' performance against Easts showed "all positive signs”.
"I think everyone has been impressing, even the Colts that are coming up,” Shea said.
"The general consensus seems to be that with no BRL team, our depth isn't really there but what's been shown in the trials, you scratch your head thinking about all the guys that will miss out in round one that deserve to be there.
"There's a lot of guys in our squad at the moment who, if they had to play Queensland Cup next week they'd step up and do the job comfortably.”
Shea became an instant success at the Jets last season, endearing himself to fans with his consistent performances.
Now with a year in green and white under his belt, he is keen to build on his 2018 campaign.
"I thought year one was outstanding enjoyment-wise,” he said.
"Last year everything was a learning process, I was picking it up as I went. This year I've been there for a year and got my head around it a bit more and I'm teaching some of the newer guys what to expect.
"Touch-wood I stay injury free. I'm looking forward to a big year.”