Why the Jets are in paradise this weekend
THE IPSWICH Jets are en route to Thursday Island to meet the Northern Pride for the Intrust Super Cup's 'Get in the Game' Country Week.
Encouraging youngsters to play the game and injecting funds into regional economies, the QRL is taking rugby league to remote areas with the support of the Queensland Government.
TI, as it is colloquially known, is a tropical paradise found in the Torres Strait roughly 39 kilometres north of Cape York Peninsula.
It will be the isolated population of 2938 predominantly Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people's first taste of the state's premier rugby league competition.
The Jets skipped training last night and flew out at 5.30 this morning ahead of tomorrow evening's clash.
Landing in sunny Cairns, they will travel onto Horn Island before boarding a ferry to TI. Shortly after arrival, players will have a chance to acclimatise and stretch their legs at a training session.
It is a journey to rival the trip to Papua New Guinea.
Having played rugby league in France, Ipswich stalwart Josh Seage is no stranger to travel.
He does not expect it to worry any of his teammates either, the majority of which were part of the squad which conquered the PNG mountain for the first time earlier this season.
"We are playing the next day, so it is very similar to PNG, which we have all done," Seage said.
"We are going somewhere different as well, so everyone is pumped."
While on the island, Ipswich's stars will take part in a fun run/walk raising awareness for diabetes and have plenty of opportunity to interact with community members.
The people of TI are set to treat the Jets to their own brand of hospitality. They will throw the teams a welcome dinner and a post-match feast.
Seage said passionate rugby league supporters in the far north did not often get access to view high quality rugby league.
He said it was hoped the Jets' presence would inspire locals to take up the sport and have a constructive effect socially.
"Hopefully, they enjoy us being there," he said.
"If they happen to listen to us and we can have a positive impact that would be great. The boys are excited to mix with the locals and get an understanding of what life is like up there."
Some of the Jets are reportedly keen to try their hands at fishing, while others are to reunite with family members.
Seage said the Jets had a strong bond with the country, with many of the current crop having roots in regional areas.
He said the style and freedom with which Ipswich played was not unlike that expressed by kids mucking around in the backyard and this only enhanced the team's affinity with the country.
"They throw it around and hope stuff comes off," he said.
"They have fun and don't take it too seriously, which is similar to the way we try to put on a show."
The experienced forward said Ipswich's country contingent had been a positive influence on the culture at the club, creating a relaxed and supportive environment.
"Some of the boys don't like their country music but I like it," he said.
Ipswich took 18 players north, with gun five-eighth Josh Cleeland expected to make a return from a knee injury.
Seage said Cleeland had really started to hit his straps prior to the injury and it was a coup for the Jets to have him back on the paddock.
"They always have a few Cowboys so we'll need to keep an eye on them," he said.
"But we'll just focus on ourselves really.
"We've been playing good footy and we've got added confidence from the win last week, so hopefully that will roll us in (to the finals)."
Intrust Super Cup Rd 18: Tomorrow (6pm) - Ipswich Jets (9th) v Northern Pride (12th) at Ken Brown Oval, Thursday Island.