Walker fans flames of Blackhawks rivalry
IPSWICH co-coach Ben Walker stoked the fires ahead of tomorrow's elimination final against the Blackhawks by calling into question the Townsville side's use of the Head Injury Assessment rule.
In The Courier-Mail yesterday, Walker took a tongue-in-cheek jab at today's opponents. He doubled down on those sentiments at training.
"No, not mind games. I'm just very complimentary of their regard for the well-being of their players,” Walker said.
"I love how they are able to assess them and get them back 14 minutes and 10 seconds after they are taken off the field - because they have 15 minutes to get them back on.”
Former Jet Rod Griffen was at the forefront of Walker's mind.
"I noticed he's had a couple of HIAs too, recently. I hope he's doing well, because I like him a lot, and I don't want to see him have any head trauma,” Walker said.
Walker was "very complimentary” of the Blackhawks' regard for their players. But that was where the compliments ended.
"They're pretty transparent with the way they play,” the co-coach said. "There's no real surprises. It's a style we play against every week.
"Their two halves can be dangerous runners. But if you don't chase their dummies, they're pretty stock-standard.
"The hooker likes to run a lot. At dummy half he likes to take any opportunity, whether it's there or not.”
The Jets enter tomorrow's do-or-die clash as underdogs with the bookies, despite boasting the superior form line.
Townsville have lost their past four matches; the Jets are undefeated in five outings.
"We're outsiders with the bookies we've been told. If you're a punter, you'd want to have something on us, I know I would if I was allowed,” Walker said.
The Jets have essentially been playing finals footy for more than a month, having only narrowly scraped into the six last round.
Walker said the intensity of finals was greater than that of a regular season hit-out, but suggested the pressure valve had actually been released.
"We haven't put any pressure on ourselves the last five or six weeks, we just prepared like we had to win,” he said. "But the pressure is off in a sense. We're there now, we can relax and enjoy the moment. We certainly have this week.”
Over the course of the 24 round regular season, Walker's consistent message was that form only matters at the pointy end of the season.
He said the Jets' sixth-placed finish belied their current form.
"Even though we have run sixth, we're probably playing a lot better than the table would suggest,” Walker said.
"It's important you've got a little run-up going into the semis, and we certainly have. We've won some good games and we're full of confidence.
"This week it's the team that handles the pressure best is the team that wins.
"We've got a number of blokes that have won grand finals before. They know how to get the job done.”
Intrust Super Cup elimination final: Saturday (1.10pm) - Ipswich Jets v Townsville Blackhawks at Jack Manski Oval, Townsville.