Thriving Jet to soar in maroon
IPSWICH Jets five eighth Josh Cleeland will be glowing with pride when he pulls on maroon for the first time tomorrow afternoon.
The classy playmaker joins inspirational Jets captain Nat Neale in the Queensland Residents tackling the New South Wales Residents.
Cleeland could not hide his excitement at the prospect of throwing on his state's revered colours.
"Representing the state is an honour,” he said. "I'm just keen to get out there.
"It's a bloody honour.
"It means everything. To get called in is unbelievable.”
The Ipswich duo will run out alongside one another to battle the best players from the Canterbury Cup after Cleeland answered a late call-up earlier this week.
The experienced warrior will start in the front row, while Cleeland earns the number six jersey on the back of impressive performances throughout the first two months of the season, during which he has consistently been one of Ipswich's finest.
"Nat is an old head in the group,” Cleeland said of his Jets compatriot's standing within the squad.
"He leads by actions.
"He doesn't say much but you know he is ready to go.”
After spending the week in camp at the Gold Coast, the rest of the Queenslanders are also healthy and prepared to rip in. They know they will need to be on their game to usurp NSW, which took out the annual fixture in 2018 and features names like Brock Lamb and Lloyd Perrett.
"Everyone is chilled,” Cleeland said.
"We have been having a couple of training sessions and getting to know each other.
"Everyone is buying in and we're ready to have a red hot crack.”
He said since inception of the interstate concept results had see-sawed, with an intense rivalry forming.
"It has been tit for tat,” he said. "They win one year and then we win the next.
"So it will be interesting to see how we go.”
Ipswich's most creative talent returned to the Jets this season after a successful stint with the Bulldogs, which included a NSW Intrust Super Premiership title.
He has faced many of the men he will encounter on Sunday in the past and hopes that knowledge will help him devise a plan to bring down the Blues.
Cleeland has thrived since reconnecting with Ben and Shane Walker at the Jets, a club where he enjoyed so much success in 2015, going all the way to the national title.
He said the Jets' creative style of play had proven beneficial to his game and allowed him to play with the freedom to express himself.
"The Jets' structure has helped me to run more and play what is in front of me,” he said.
"Structured play can be a bit robotic, but the Jets' style is more free flowing.”
Across the opening nine rounds of the Intrust Super Cup, Cleeland and halfback Julian Christian have formed a formidable combination.
As their understanding of each other's abilities grows, the duo are flourishing and Cleeland can not wait to see what they are capable of leading into the finals.
"Julian is a wonderful player,” he said. "He has so much talent.
"I'm excited to see where his future can go as well.”
As for what his own future holds, Cleeland said he would consider any offers from NRL clubs when and if they came his way.
"At the moment, I'm just worried about putting in a good game for the Residents and getting the win,” he said. "Then I'll go back to the Jets and finish of the season strongly.
"If something comes out of it, that would be really good.”
The Queenslanders are hoping a large crowd turns up to support them despite the NRL's Magic Round being held in Brisbane this weekend.