BEST IN THE BUSINESS: Former Brothers Ipswich junior Luke Keary was named Clive Churchill Medallist as best on ground in the Roosters' 21-6 win over Melbourne Storm in the NRL grand final on Sunday night.
BEST IN THE BUSINESS: Former Brothers Ipswich junior Luke Keary was named Clive Churchill Medallist as best on ground in the Roosters' 21-6 win over Melbourne Storm in the NRL grand final on Sunday night. CRAIG GOLDING

The Ipswich connection which dominated NRL grand final day

PREVIOUSLY it was Langer, Walters and Beattie to name but a few.

Surnames which will always hold a place in the heart of Ipswich rugby league fans, and for good reason.

But it might be time to open the hearts to a new crop of Ipswich stars.

Ali Brigginshaw, the inaugural captain of the Brisbane Broncos' NRLW side, and widely considered the best female player on the planet.

Now a premiership player.

Luke Keary, the inspirational Sydney Roosters five-eighth, and now two-time premiership player and Clive Churchill Medallist as best-afield on the game's biggest stage.

And Joshua Cleeland, a key cog in the all-conquering Ipswich Jets team of 2015, and catalyst for Canterbury Banks-town in a comprehensive 48-12 defeat of Redcliffe in the Intrust Super State Championship final.

On Sunday, with the eyes of Australia fixed on ANZ Stadium, three proud Ipswich products stood tall above the rest.

 

Ali Brigginshaw of the Broncos holds up the trophy after the NRL Women's Premiership Grand Final between the Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, September 30, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ali Brigginshaw of the Broncos holds up the trophy after the NRL Women's Premiership Grand Final between the Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, September 30, 2018. (AAP Image/Craig Golding) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY CRAIG GOLDING

More than 16,000 fans watched the NRLW Broncos make history, and Brigginshaw was at the fore.

The Bremer State High School product always dreamed but never truly believed the day would come when she could pull on a Broncos jersey and be considered equal to the men.

The Norths Tigers junior and now Brothers Ipswich star pulled the strings in the Broncos halves alongside player of the match Kimiora Nati.

Add an NRLW premiership medallion to a growing list of accolades, which includes two World Cups.

Already an established superstar of the women's game, Brigginshaw's natural ability with the ball is surpassed only by her passion to help grow the sport she loves.

"As a little girl, I didn't have anyone to look up to," Brigginshaw told The QT in June.

"I was pretending to be Allan Langer and those types. But now girls can dream to be a Bronco too.

"There would be nothing better than seeing a little girl with Brigginshaw on the back of a Broncos number seven jersey."

Keary grew up in Raceview, went to school at St Mary's and played his junior football at Brothers before moving interstate at the age of 10.

But the 26-year-old never forgot where he came from - even last year when begrudgingly his State of Origin allegiance was settled with New South Wales.

Just like Brigginshaw, Keary grew up idolising Allan Langer. And he played like Langer on Sunday.

The diminutive half had a hand in just about everything, as the Roosters rolled to a comprehensive 21-6 defeat of the Melbourne Storm.

Bittersweet may be the feeling if and when Keary does pull on a NSW jersey in coming years. But just as those south of the border like to claim Greg Inglis as their own, Ipswich can happily place an asterisk next to Roosters star.

 

Josh Cleeland of the Bulldogs during the Intrust Super State Championship Grand Final between the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and the Redcliffe Dolphins and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, September 30, 2018. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Josh Cleeland of the Bulldogs during the Intrust Super State Championship Grand Final between the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and the Redcliffe Dolphins and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, September 30, 2018. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY DEAN LEWINS

Cleeland's performance against Redcliffe just hours prior to Keary's blinder had many scratching their heads asking why he has yet to crack the NRL.

The 27-year-old crossed for two tries in as many minutes, to break a scoring stalemate between Canterbury and Redcliffe and send his side into halftime with a 10-point buffer.

He was justly awarded best on ground for his efforts.

It was a performance those close to Cleeland have come to expect, and one which should net the Ipswich product an NRL berth next season.