Jets refuel for Rocky road trip
THE Ipswich Jets have received a major boost ahead of this weekend's clash with Central Queensland.
Fijian winger Nemani Valekapa and second rower Jesse Roberts return from injury just as Ipswich look to extend a three-game winning streak.
Back-to-back victories over the Northern Pride, Souths Logan and Burleigh have helped the Jets climb to eighth spot on the Intrust Super Cup ladder.
With the CQ Capras one win behind in 12th, this is one game Ipswich can't afford to lose.
"I reckon this weekend is massive,” Roberts said.
"We had a three-game winning streak going into the bye so it would be good to start on the right foot and build on that.
"I know they've got a couple of big props like Matthew Groat so it would be good to get on the field at the same time and have a good challenge against him.”
A former Souths Sydney Rabbitohs player, Roberts hasn't been seen since the Jets' loss to Townsville.
Returning on the bench this weekend, the 24-year-old can't wait to rip in. "I was injured in round two after a massive pre-season,” he said.
"I was feeling really fit so to get injured so early in the season I was pretty devastated.
"I've been getting itchy feet watching the boys play so I'm pretty keen to get back on the field. I've just got to build up the match fitness and hopefully get back to playing 80 minutes again.”
Despite injuring his AC joint against the Blackhawks, Roberts was never far from his Jets' teammates.
Taking on the role of on-field trainer, the New Zealand backrower was a ready supplier of water and encouragement.
"It's been good still being part of the atmosphere,” he said. "It gives you something to do and doesn't let you get your head down.
"I've definitely got a lot more respect for the yellow jersey now.”
Enjoying the new role, Roberts admitted sometimes it was hard to react as a trainer and not as part of the Ipswich defence.
Every time an opposition player threatened the Jets' line, Roberts was itching to put on a tackle himself.
One game in particular became a source of humour for his teammates and coaching staff, with the moment captured on camera.
"The guys were giving it to me at the last video session,” he laughed.
"I was out there giving the boys some water when the other team got an intercept.
"I've gotten set to make a tackle before I realised I was meant to be the water boy.
"I've dropped both water bottles and just run off the field. You could see the referee throwing the bottles off the field.”
Ipswich have a strong record against the Capras, with 13 wins from 20 clashes between the two sides.
So far this season the Jets have performed better on the road than they have at home. They will look to continue that record in Rockhampton.
Nat Neale and Richard Pandia also return this weekend after featuring in the Queensland Residents and PNG international side over the representative break.
Ipswich Jets v CQ Capras from 6pm, tomorrow at Browne Park:
1. Wes Conlon
2. Michael Purcell
3. Ben White
4. Nemani Valekapa
5. Richard Pandia
6. Chris Ash
7. Dane Phillips (c)
8. Mitch Carpenter
9. Luke Capewell
10. Nat Neale
22. Tyson Lofipo
12. Seb Pandia
13. Rory Humphreys
11. Sam Martin
15. Lachlan Roe
16. Huskie Teatau
21. Nathan Gaulton
17. Jesse Roberts
Co-coaches: Ben Walker and Shane Walker