Alberts still has what it takes

(Thanks to Jay Buchan and the QT)
IT didn’t look as though he hadn’t played for eight years when Jermaine Alberts stood up the Wynnum-Manly winger with a jink and a burst of speed on Saturday.

Perhaps it is a tribute to the Ipswich Jets training program, or perhaps it shows what could have been had Alberts stuck with the game as a 20-year-old year old.

The Jets 28-year-old rookie centre, who made his Queensland Cup debut against the Seagulls at the weekend, was contracted to Wests Tigers in 2004 and made it as far as Reserve grade.

But rugby league was not the top priority in his life, and he took two years off to complete his Mormon mission in New Zealand.

After that he got married, started a business degree and football was largely forgotten as life took over.

Until last year.

“I got a call from Ian Lacey,” Alberts said.

“We played school footy together in central Queensland.

“He said, ‘Come and train and see if you survive’.

“I’m surviving.”

Alberts admits there were moments he wondered whether he would or not.

“There’s always doubt,” he said.

“It was very tough, but it’s a good team with a good culture and awesome coaches.”

If there was a moment when those doubts grew loudest it was in the pre-season trial against the Penrith Panthers.

“It was the fastest game I’ve ever played in my life,” he said.

“I was thinking, ‘Mate. It’s a big jump here’.”

On Saturday’s evidence Alberts has successfully made the jump.

He stood up his marker on more than one occasion and had a try disallowed for a forward pass.

“It’s definitely a fast game,” he said. “I got initiated very quickly.”

For Alberts, the game was a huge confidence boost, despite copping “a couple of knees to the ribs,” that led to him reproducing the morning’s breakfast on the field.

“I had to catch my breath,” he said.

“But after that I was alright.

“I’ve still got my speed.

“I haven’t run for a long time, but when I last played that was probably my strength.

“Now I’ve got to build on that.”

Soon after, having played 30 minutes, Alberts was replaced.

“I think that was the coaches’ plan,” he said.

“They just wanted to introduce me to the pace of the game.”

Jets co-coach Shane Walker admitted Alberts was pulled because they expected the pace of the game and Alberts’ own emotional investment to take its toll.

“He got the call-up and the nerves of competing at that level can drain you,” Walker said.

“It is far worse than game fatigue.

“We recognised it pretty early in the game.”

It is not likely to be held against him.

“He’s got plenty of football in him,” Walker said.

Alberts didn’t come back to rugby league out of any feelings of lost opportunity or a burning desire to play again before he was too old.

“It wasn’t a priority,” he said.

“But the fact I have a lot of respect for Ian got the ball rolling.”

Having made the commitment and survived Alberts is here for the long haul.

“The goal is just to play consistent (Queensland) Cup,” he said.

“Be a contributor to the team and make a difference.

“It’s definitely a long-term thing.

“If I get the opportunity (in Queensland Cup again) I’ll be very grateful.

“It’s definitely where I want to be.”

Jermaine Alberts

Height: 182cm

Weight: 90kg

Occupation: Human resources.

Junior club: Norths, Mackay.

Favourite player growing up: Nathan Blacklock.

Biggest influence: My family from Mackay.

Best advice: Life’s a journey.

Pre-match routine: Stay calm and collected and get an early night to bed.