Jets' chance to 'breathe, relax' before Townsville trip
THE Ipswich Jets are back in the 2018 finals race after two years of sitting out and watching other teams claim the prize.
The Jets can keep their grand final hopes alive by beating the Blackhawks in Saturday's elimination final in Townsville.
The Jets and Blackhawks have met once before in the finals - the 2015 grand final where the Jets won 32-20.
In 2018, the Jets and Blackhawks are sitting at one win each. The Jets won 20-18 in Ipswich and the Blackhawks got up 22-14 in Townsville.
This will be the Jets' third game at the Blackhawks' home and it is one all. The Jets won 24-12 in 2016, with Michael Purcell scoring two tries.
Since 2015, the Blackhawks have managed 35 wins from 46 games with one draw.
Overall, the Jets sit on five wins compared to the Blackhawks' four.
The Jets were not at their best against the Devils.
I described it to Ben Walker as a low run chase performance that made everyone a bit nervous.
"You are right, it was a bit like a five-day wicket chasing 80 with 10 wickets in hand and no one wants to run out anyone and start a collapse,'' Walker said. "But that's over now so I would expect the guys to relax, breathe. We've made it and now be ready."
The Jets will need to progress without Sam Caslick who dislocated his shoulder against Norths. Seb Pandia will again be considered for his return from a knee injury.
Blackhawks' offload king Rod Griffin will go head-to-head with Jets leader Nat Neale.
Neale heads the offloads for the competition while Griffin has the third most.
The battle of the two front rowers will decide this game.
FOOTBALLERS can have a tired look about them leading into August. They have been going at it pushing themselves physically since November.
However, finals are special. Come September, you want to see that relaxed smile and ready.
Jets Intrust Super Cup experienced campaigner Ben Shea gave his insight into what has to be done when finals arrive.
"We have made it to where we want to be, with the team we have, it would have been a shame to come up short,'' Shea said.
"Finals are a new ball game and it will suit us perfectly."
The Walkers will draw on their 11 finals games and seven wins coaching experience this week.
Shane Walker said it's all about embracing finals.
"The players are energised and excited and you just have to ride that. It's what they have worked hard for all year,'' he said.
Asked if that changes anything this week, Ben Walker answered: "No not too much. Footballers just naturally find a new level from now.
"Finals are like Christmas for footballers.
"You've waited all year, you're exhausted from getting things right and then you can't sleep but wake up Christmas day you find great energy."
This will be the Jets 21st finals appearance in the Intrust Super Cup.
The Jets have won 10 finals games.
JET number 473 Gavin Cooper grabbed a slice of NRL forward try-scoring history playing for the Cowboays against the Eels last week.
Cooper became the first forward in 100 years to score tries in eight consecutive games.
Frank Burge did it for Glebe in 1918 and now Cooper for the Cowboys in 2018.
Burge recently became an Immortal so Cooper is keeping good company. Cooper will be looking to have the record on his own and score his ninth try against the Titans this week.
I asked Cooper about his new record.
"Not really something you think about too much but it's definitely pretty cool record to equal,'' Cooper said.
"Burge scored 137 tries so I think this is the only time Frank and I will be mentioned together."
Reggie the whiz
FINALS start in Townsville and it is fitting I spoke to one of the best Intrust Super Cup finals performers and former Cowboy Reggie Cressbrook.
Last week Billy Slater said his favourite Jet was Reggie Cressbrook.
Cressbrook was not just one of Billy Slater's favourites. Lots of people marvelled at the skills of the Goodna junior who went to Redbank Plains High.
Reggie is an Intrust Super Cup legend.
"All I wanted to do when I was young was play on two grounds, the North Ipswich Reserve and Lang Park,'' Reggie reminisced this week.
"Whiz" played 31 games for the Jets and scored 20 tries, 22 goals, and one field goal for 125 points.
His Intrust Super Cup career was outstanding. 143 games, 89 tries, 366 goals, one field goal and 1089 points.
Cressbrook played in grand finals in 1999, 2002, '03, '04 and '05, winning two premierships.
He was selected in the centres for the Intrust Super Cup team of the first 20 years for his outstanding work for the Bears and Jets.
"I can't believe that Billy Slater mentioned me,'' Reggie said.
"I remember that game against him and thinking gee, he is fast. They were young and so enthusiastic.
"I remember a game where he came off the bench and he made such a difference to Norths.
"They were great days at the Jets, 2001 and 2002. We had a great team with great guys."
THE Jets have won five games in a row, something they have not done since 2016.
The Jets club record is eight, including the 2015 State Championship game.
Seven is their Intrust Super Cup record.
A cold beer with . . .
In the 1980's when the Wynnum Seagulls rolled into Ipswich it was like rock stars coming to town. A big part of that was 1986 premiership winner Scott Lewis. He recalls those Wynnum days.
They must have been good days? You were playing with your mates, getting paid and loving what you do. It was not full-time so I was working during the day and then you train at night. They were enjoyable days. I do not think I would swap them for now.
You must take a lot of pride out of being part of that Wynnum team - they are rated the best Brisbane club side ever. When you play with the players we had then it makes you look better. It takes a lot of pressure off you when five or six people are that high standard. Wynnum was sort of everyone's second favourite team because they had not won too much over the years and they had so many Queensland stars.
What can you remember about playing the Jets? Ipswich fans are so passionate. You knew what you were going to get and I remember them having that cage at the Reserve after someone belted Wally. Ipswich people never seem to forget where they come from. You are always an Ipswich person and always characters.
After the Broncos kicked off, was it great to be there at the start of a club? The first game against Manly I was playing Reserve Grade and did my knee. It took me nine months to get back and I was at the Broncos again in 1989. I went to Souths Magpies after that and I retired in 1990. I was happy with what I had achieved.