What a revival: Check out fantastic Ipswich sports
WHAT a difference a year makes in these crazy, unconventional times.
However, it is with a touch of caution that Ipswich sporting optimism levels rise.
As we enter the busiest time of the year, it's fantastic to have senior and junior sport back up and running in traditionally strong winter sports like rugby league, football, hockey and netball.
Add to that an exciting new basketball competition which is about to be unleashed this weekend when the NBL1 North series begins.
NBL1 is an expanded state league-style format with conferences around the country to be united later this year with direct links to the National Basketball League.
It's exciting stuff and Ipswich is involved through our hardworking Force men's and women's teams.
The men's side, coached by the astute Chris Riches, is led by loyal former Ipswich Grammar School student Jason Ralph, typifying the all-important support for local talent.
Ralph will be joined by the city's best basketball export when Matt Hodgson plays for Force after completing his Brisbane Bullets commitments.
The Ipswich Jets rightfully command a strong rugby league following in our sports-mad city despite only securing one victory in this year's Intrust Super Cup.
All indications are that the Jets will ignite sooner rather than later.
That always creates plenty of buzz around the city.
While the Jets footballers work hard to fire up, another club side is again impressing.
The USQ Jets netballers are already threatening to make back-to-back Sapphire Series grand finals.
Although the powerful Brisbane Cougars could again stand in their way, the Jets remain on target under the guidance of smart head coach Tracey Jeanes-Fraser.
Keep an eye on how this rising Ipswich team fares in coming weeks.
In the Rugby League Ipswich competition, Swifts are setting the standard in A-Grade after just three weeks.
Following commendable efforts to get last year's six-team Volunteers Cup competition between Ipswich and Toowoomba up and running, there's nothing like all-Ipswich club battles to provide weekly excitement.
Brothers are sure to rebound after their rare 50-18 defeat to Swifts last weekend.
The clubs also showed tremendous spirit honouring two "beautiful people''.
As the season progresses, observe with interest how the new Jets side progresses led by footy great Phil Dennis.
Another side to monitor is the youth-laded Norths combination being groomed by successful junior coach Michael Williamson.
Many surprises are in store. Watching footy at spacious grounds like Purga is extremely enjoyable of a Sunday afternoon.
In one of the region's longest running sports, Western Pride and the Ipswich Knights are battling hard to stay in touch with this year's Football Queensland Premier League 1 pacesetters.
Friday night's local derby at Bundamba will strengthen one team's prospects of remaining in fourth spot as the season cranks up.
The Pride women are also showing plenty of promise in the National Premier Leagues competition as they look to lock up a top eight spot for the second half of the season.
In hockey, Hancocks and Norths are frontrunners for another A-Grade men's grand final showdown.
Hancocks and Wests are building for what could be another end of season battle between the powerhouse women's clubs.
The Ipswich Eagles men are struggling early in the 2021 Aussie rules season. Thankfully, the Eagles women are carrying the flag while the men rediscover some form.
With all this happening, more terrific sport looms next month.
Strap yourself in for the annual Winternationals drag racing spectacular at Willowbank, especially with no Supercars round to enjoy in Ipswich anymore.
Then it's the Ipswich Cup on June 19 after last year's major social event was called off due to COVID.
Given life's stresses in a pandemic era, it's highly likely this year's Ipswich Cup could attract another massive crowd of partygoers looking to unwind and relax.
That augurs well for our proud sporting city and the economic benefits that brings.
A feast of junior sport is also gaining momentum with cross country events, GPS sport and elite rugby league competitions.
The Langer Cup schoolboy competition is fast approaching with Ipswich State High again expected to be a strong contender.
Given how quickly the school's rugby league girls' program is advancing, anything is possible.
Ipswich State High's young players are well worth watching, especially in matches being livestreamed like this week's Titans Cup games.
As is the case in our rapidly advancing digital world, livestreaming is the future and News Corp is leading the way showcasing a variety of sports.
Keep reading the QT website for the best regional sports coverage and look out for more terrific live online moments as winter sport clicks into top gear.