Nat Neale re-signs with Jets for extra two years
STAR Ipswich Jets prop Nat Neale has re-signed for the next two seasons in a massive boost to the club's prospects of returning to finals' football in the Intrust Super Cup.
The Jets have also made other key signings with former Ipswich speed demon Josh Robinson signing for two seasons. The dazzling Marmin Barba also returns for the Jets in 2018 after a year up in Mackay.
Jets chairman Steve Johnson said the re-signing of Neale, who formerly played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL, was a key priority.
"Nat is the big signing because he is our steel and our forward leader," Johnson said.
"When Nat Neale is on the field you know the Jets are going to be tough in the middle. That is what we had with Keiron Lander and you have to have that toughness.
"How Nat Neale is not playing in the NRL has just got me gobsmacked.
"He is a big forward who can play 80 minutes. He leads the Jets in carries, offloads and tackles. His stats are off the charts and how a club like Newcastle didn't look at him just escapes me, but we are so excited to keep him."
The return of Robinson will give the Jets more pace out wide. When he signed with the Jets in 2016 co-coach Ben Walker told the QT of his sizzling times on the track.
"Josh runs 10.7 seconds for the 100m," Walker said.
"His best 400m time is just over 46 seconds and the world record is 43.18 (held by Michael Johnson). Two years ago he knocked back the Cowboys because he wanted to concentrate on the Commonwealth Games in 2018."
Johnson said Robinson had re-asserted his commitment to rugby league.
"Josh Robinson played Colts here and made his first grade debut but got injured and went back to athletics," he said.
"He has been playing for a year up at Oakey and has fallen in love with rugby league again and is ready to come back. Josh will no doubt walk straight into that first grade side because he is an amazing talent.
"Marmin Barba is back next year so we are going to have Marmin, Michael Purcell, Josh Robinson and Wes Conlon in the backline and that will mean more excitement.
"We will have that speed in the backs, so if we can get our defence in the middle right then we will blow the competition apart. With (forward) Billy McConnachie coming back at some stage next year (from a knee injury) we are going to be a side that teams are scared to run at again."
The Jets have missed the finals for the past two seasons and are determined to return to finals' football after winning the Intrust Super Cup title in 2015.
Co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker will be back in 2018 provided they do not land an NRL head coaching role.
Former Broncos star Gorden Tallis, who played with the Walkers brothers at Brisbane, has been appointed to the committee which will select the next Titans coach. When asked on Triple M what he would say if they applied, Tallis was supportive.
"I'd say give them a crack," Tallis said.
"You don't know if you are ready to play NRL until you play and you don't know if you are ready to coach NRL until you coach some games.
"(The Walkers) have been training twice a week with guys and they play a great brand of footy.
"That's what rugby league needs. I think they'd throw a spanner in the works."