Supercoach back at the Tigers' den
PREMIERSHIP-WINNING coach Mick Newton will return to the role in which he enjoyed so much success should the RLI A-Grade competition go ahead this year.
Having led the North Ipswich club to the promised land in 2014 and 2015, and into the big dance again in 2018 where they ran into a white hot Fassifern Bombers, the master coach has unfinished business as he tries to guide the Tigers to the trophy for a third time.
Approached by the committee to sit at the helm for another campaign, nothing less than a semi-final appearance will satisfy the demanding taskmaster who had a year off last season.
"I thought well I either go now or I sit back and be a spectator from now on," Newton said.
"So I thought I'd give it a run. I enjoy training and seeing the progression of players. They all worked hard over the pre-season. We had a consistent squad and were building into something quite special leading into the start of the season, then it didn't happen."
Norths have a young group with a bright future and Newton hopes to offer guidance and instil it with a fierce competitiveness.
Experienced stalwart Chris Scanlan is dusting off the kit for yet another season in the top flight and Newton is sure to look to him for leadership.
"Hopefully, they can explode and take off in the next few years," Newton said.
"They have plenty of potential. Norths have always had a strong junior base. Some of those players are coming through, so hopefully we can provide support and lead them in the right direction."
Norths have retained the bulk of last year's side which made a late run but narrowly missed the semis.
"There hasn't been too many migrated to other clubs," Newton said.
"That is evidence of the culture at Norths. When a player joins Norths, they generally remain a Tiger for life.
"We are happy for them to move onto bigger and better things (Jets) but there is not a lot of movement within Ipswich. We try to build a culture and atmosphere under which players can enjoy being here with their families.
"We try to look after them as much as we can. We don't have a bag of money but try to foster the right environment for players to grow."
Several ageing Tigers appear to have called time on their glittering careers.
The most noteworthy to hang up the boots is playmaker Steven West, although no one ever really knows for sure if the RLI legend is retired or not.
A glutton for punishment, West is fond of a last minute comeback. He has done it before and it would not be a surprise to see him organising attacking raids at some stage throughout an abbreviated season which Newton rightfully believes will be taken out by the team which can find combinations and explode on the park earliest.
Depending on the length of the season, he may turn to combinations which have worked previously to ensure the Tigers hit the ground running.
"With the condensed comp, I'm not sure whether we will get the opportunity to blood the young fellas, which I've always done in the past," he said.
"A couple of the boys have been playing together in senior football for a couple of years. It's about time they made a name for themselves. We also have a couple of new boys who did pre-season at the Jets and have come back after not being selected, and their professionalism should lift the rest of the squad."
Newton said the proposed addition of the Ipswich Jets Intrust Cup stars and Colts would also lift the overall quality of the RLI significantly but he feared their involvement could be detrimental to the competition's future.
"What if one of the boys who has been training doesn't get an opportunity because a player has come back in for 10 weeks or however long the season ends up," he said.
"How is that building long term for the club.
"The Jets would understandably be keen as mustard to play some football but you still want to be able to build a future for the club.
"From an A-Grade coach's perspective, it would be great to deal with higher quality players but what are they going to give back to the club."
Newton said everyone was itching for a contest and he hoped to see some local footy action as soon as possible.