AS player of the year Khan Ahwang sat quietly on the dressing room floor, the disappointment was etched in his face.
He was deep in thought, almost motionless at the entrance of the North Ipswich Reserve shed, holding empty energy drinks in his hands.
The Jets had lost the FOGS Cup rugby league grand final 40-18 to Easts and the competition’s leading pointscorer was hurting big-time.
“I play every game at 100%,” Ahwang said. “I hate losing.”
However, the powerful winger had another reason for his moment of silence reflecting on the grand final.
It was his last game in Ipswich colours before joining Burleigh next season, chasing his Queensland Cup dream.
He had kept his decision quiet and was about to tell his teammates the news.
“It’s been a good year,” Ahwang said, desperately wanting an elusive grand final to come Ipswich’s way.
“The boys hung in well there towards the back end of the season.”
However, coughing up too much ball yesterday hurt the Jets as much as Ahwang despises defeat.
In a Jets team playing in its second semi-final since 2007, Ahwang was a standout.
The athletic labourer with a distinctive braided hairdo scored a try, kicked three goals and never gave in, despite the Jets trailing 22-0 at halftime.
His towering bombs, fearless cover defence and ball skills showed why he was one of the Jets best.
The grand final was virtually over at halftime after the Tigers crossed for four unanswered tries.
The Jets started well enough, defending strongly before the floodgates opened.
In hot and windy conditions, the Jets offered a glimmer of hope by scoring the first two tries after the break. But the minor premiers responded brilliantly to shut down any miracle comeback attempt.
“We came up short today but we can be proud of the year,” captain Kevin Bell said, returning to the field following a back injury.
“Easts were too strong up the middle.”
Jets co-coach Mark Bishop shared his side’s disappointment.
“It wasn’t our day today,” the former Jets colts mentor said.
“The harder we tried, the more luck Easts got.
“They got every bounce of the ball and they are a really good side. We gave them too much start. It was a mountain too high.
“We played the best team in the comp today and you need to be spot on. It would have been nice for us to be spot on (our game) and see what Easts really had.”
However, he was encouraged by what the club’s Reserve grade team achieved in recent weeks.
“They can only go up from there,” he said, having worked well with co-coach Todd Brown this season.
“At least they know what it’s all about. How hard you have to train and what you have to do.”
Brown agreed it was a valuable lesson, especially after the Jets weren’t expected to make the grand final.
“The first 15 minutes we were in it then we kind of got away from has been working for us,” he said.
“That’s football. We dropped off too many tackles.
“But we’ve done a great job to make the grand final. That’s an achievement in itself.”
The co-coaches hoped most of the players remained next season, to build on what they started.
“They’ve become good mates as well,” Bishop said, working together in the tier below the Queensland Cup.
A crowd of about 6700 watched yesterday’s games at the Reserve.
State of Play
FOGS Cup grand final: Easts Tigers 40 (Corbin Kiernan 2, Ryan Pooley, Liam Tyson, Geoff Holcombe, Liufau Hala, Luke Lavelle, Wiremu Ratana tries; Liam Tyson 4 goals) def Ipswich Jets 18 (Khan Ahwang, Michael Fisher, Josh Seage tries; Khan Ahwang 3 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.
Man of the Match: Liam Tyson (Easts Tigers).
The Mackay Cutters ended Easts’ premiership hat-trick bid by winning yesterday’s Intrust Cup grand final 27-20 at the North Ipswich Reserve.