Why Ipswich footballers are buzzing about Ballymore
RUGBY: With two Ipswich Rangers teams in grand finals at Ballymore this weekend, the players are understandably excited.
Being the proud Ipswich club's 50th anniversary has enhanced the tremendous buzz around Woodend Park this week.
Rangers' Wyatt Cup combination tackle Med XV in tonight's premiership decider before Ipswich's Pegg Cup side battle Caboolture tomorrow afternoon.
Pegg Cup captain Jarred Lacey said the club was soaking up the opportunity but with a measure of caution.
"Mentally is our main focus,'' Lacey said, having last played a grand final at the famous ground in 2014.
"The boys are pretty excited so it's just about keeping a lid on the excitement until game day.
"We've got a few older players in the team who know not to play the game before it.
"It's just getting everyone on that same page and making sure everyone knows their jobs.
"It's all a mental battle from now on until game day.''
However, after a week off, Lacey was confident his full strength side was in good shape for the duel with Caboolture.
"We're looking pretty good,'' he said, keeping this week's preparation normal after a team run and barbecue last Saturday.
Although Rangers beat Caboolture 42-15 and 52-8 in previous clashes, Lacey was taking nothing for granted.
"They've been tough games,'' the skipper said.
"We just have got to really put it to them in the forwards and muscle up there. Hopefully we can put them to sleep early.''
Preparing for tonight's grand final, Rangers' Wyatt Cup team received a massive boost with key players Matthew McLean and Stephen Andrews available to line up after major injury fears.
A patched-up prop McLean is going to play after suffering an ACL injury in last weekend's 17-12 win over Brisbane Irish.
"The doctors have basically said that he's not going to get any worse,'' captain Stewart Banks said, thrilled to see McLean able to share in the grand final experience.
"It's the last game of the season and he's never played in a grand final.
"If we can get 15 minutes out of Matt, that's more than enough. He's a very good footballer. He brings some good aggression to the field.''
After fearing he had fractured his jaw, winger Andrews is also going to battle on.
"Steve's jaw wasn't broken. It was just dislocated,'' Banks said.
"Once it went back into place, the doctors gave him the all-clear to go. He's quite fit and ready to go as well.''
Having McLean and Andrews taking part ensures Rangers head to Ballymore with 24 players to choose from.
After a tight forward-orientated preliminary final win, Banks expects a more open encounter tonight.
"It will be another really hard game because they are all a bunch of backs, all loose forwards, so it's a very fast game against those boys,'' the Rangers centre said.
"There's a lot of young blokes there that probably never played in a final in our team and also probably never played at Ballymore.''
In past clashes, Med XV have beaten Rangers 29-26, 24-12 and 26-13.
However, Banks said Rangers had a solid core of players confident in their ability.
"I'm just starting to get really excited about it,'' he said.
"I think we've got a really good chance.
"We know what areas we need to work on. It will be closer than what people think hopefully.
"We've got everyone back on deck so we should be good to go.''
The club organised a supporters' bus for both games, something both captains appreciated.
"The whole reason I play for the club is the club and the people involved in it,'' Banks said.
"It's awesome to be able to play in front of them again.''
Tonight: Wyatt Cup grand final (6.45pm) - Ipswich Rangers v Med XV at Ballymore.
Ipswich Rangers: 1. Brady Castles, 2. Zan Branford, 3. Matthew McLean. 4. Chad de Waard, 5. Andrew Byrnes, 6. Bryce Litzow, 7. Joel Dennis, 8. Jake Seage, 9. Isaac Creedy, 10. Cal Waldrum, 11. Sam Tierney, 12. Stewart Banks (captain), 13. Ben Hunter, 14. Stephen Andrews, 15. Jake Tierney, 16. Lewis Boland, 17. James Ellison, 18. Shane Milham, 19. James North, 20. Ryan Castles, 21. AJ Wookey, 22. Jarryd Verrankamp, 23. Cameron Payne, 24. Shane Larkman. Coach: Daniel Trevorrow.
Tomorrow: Pegg Cup grand final (1.20pm) - Ipswich Rangers v Caboolture at Ballymore.
Ipswich Rangers: 1. Terence McLeod, 2. Daniel Melila,
3. Adam Nixon, 4. Josh Horne, 5. Matthew Hobbs (vice captain), 6. James Anderson, 7. Kieran Lake, 8. Taei Lafaele, 9. Thomas McDonald, 10. Steven Fechner, 11. Nic Hall, 12. Jarred Lacey (captain), 13. Joey L Brown, 14. Mark Gordon, 15. Harland Donnelly, 16. Brennan Eason, 17. John Osbourne, 18. Larry Leaufagatele, 19. Danny Mamea, 20. Ed Setefano, 21. Jackson Hart, 22. Kruze Barcello, 23. William Church, 24. Ben Heinze, 25. Joeseph Creedy, 26. Jesse King.
Coaches: Darren Lacey and Craig Eason. Manager: Mark Osbourne. First aid and medical: Gordon Murphey. Water runner: Luke Blatch.