The Mighty Ipswich Jets
A huge cheer erupted across Ipswich when the Stadium Australia siren sounded just before 5.30 pm on NRL Grand Final Day. The Ipswich Jets had defeated the Newcastle Knights 26 to 12 to be crowned National Rugby League State Champions, before a viewing audience of nearly 1.8 million. The Sunday before, the Jets won their first Queensland Cup, defeating minor premiers the Townsville Blackhawks 32 to 20 at Lang Park. To put that victory into context, the Blackhawks had 582 games of NRL experience to Ipswich's six, and the Jets had to win five games in a row just to reach the final. But they did, playing with their trademark style—audacious, attacking flair, with short kick-offs, jinking runs and offloads aplenty. You take your heart into your mouth when you support the Ipswich Jets. With an attack built on an uncompromising and underrated defence, the Ipswich Jets had their best season in 33 years of history.
Great credit goes to co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker. The Walker boys took Ipswich from the bottom of the table to being the best team outside the NRL in rugby league. It goes to show that the NRL should support the western corridor bid of Ipswich, supported by Logan and Toowoomba, for an NRL licence. The Walker boys brought discipline to the Jets, together with an unconventional playing philosophy. If you have seen the Ipswich Jets play, you know there is no rugby league team like them, and commentators on the day at Stadium Australia made that point repeatedly.
However, style can take you only so far. Luckily, the Jets are blessed with talented players across the team, including courageous captain Keiron Lander, who has led the team from the front all year and finishes his five years at the club. Keiron is an impressive young man, not only being a terrific footballer, but also a passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The team has wonderful players, including many who will go on to play in the NRL: Rod Griffin, Marmin Barba and Billy McConnachie—an Ipswich City Council concreter by day, but an enforcer on the field.
I want to thank the back room as well: my good friend, CEO of the Ipswich Jets, Wayne Wendt, with his wonderful executive offsider, Nicole McPhee, with a fine board. Credit goes to Mark, Johno, Chris and Sandy. I want to make a special mention of a person that has done just about everything for the Ipswich Jets—Jim Landy. He has been a board member, secretary of the club, manager and coach over the years, and his wonderful wife Dot, who is always there on game day. No-one cheers more loudly for the Ipswich Jets than Dot. Thank you also to team assistant Freddie, who is always there to help in any way, shape or form.
The Indigenous Appreciation Day, the Defence Appreciation Day and the support for people with disability through ALARA to promote and encourage opportunities for people with disabilities—all these things go to show the Ipswich Jets have done a great job for the people of Ipswich.