AFTER travelling around half of Queensland with the Ipswich Jets, Peter Whittaker was finally let out of the hangar.
Regularly given the role of 18th man, Whittaker has been stuck in limbo between the Jets Reserve grade Brisbane Rugby League outfit and the Intrust Super Cup.
With a top-of-the-table clash with Burleigh for the ISC’s Country Week round in Charleville, the pocket rocket hooker was finally given his debut.
“It was awesome,” Whittaker said. “I didn’t get too much game time but I just got out there and tried to do my best for the boys with the time I was given.”
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for the defending premiers, as the Bears ran in three quick tries in the early stages of the game and put the Jets on the back foot.
Burleigh lock Lachan Burr crossed in the third minute, only to be followed by former Jet Kurtis Rowe in the seventh.
The Jets two Charleville products, Liam Capewell and Michael Purcell, gave the home crowd a chance to raise some noise with three tries between them. However, it was Burleigh who finished on top of the 46-26 scoreline.
Halfback Jamal Fogarty kicked nine conversions to bring up his 207th point for the Bears this season, leaving him 48 points clear of Redcliffe’s Darren Nicholls for the competition’s leading point scorer.
Norths junior Whittaker was delighted to have cracked the top grade despite the tough loss.
“It was good to know I was almost there as 18th man,” he said. “There was no point kicking cans and getting frustrated that I wasn’t on the field. It just made me want to work harder and just the experience of seeing how the boys prepared for games brought me a step closer each time.”
The loss to Burleigh ends the Jets recent run of five straight victories, which had elevated them to sixth position on the ISC ladder.
With games against top-four teams PNG and Redcliffe, the Jets run home has become an uphill battle to remain in the final six and the playoff race.
If Ipswich secure the final spot come September, Whittaker said Burleigh would be a tough prospect.
“They have got a really big pack,” he said. “When they get a good roll on they are going to be tough for any team to stop.
“They charge through the middle, which is hard to control and on Saturday any chance they got to take the two points they put the hand up straight away.”
At 160cm, the pocket- rocket hooker has been in blistering form under BRL coach Mark Bishop. Taken to Townsville, Cairns and now Charleville this season, Whittaker said the hardest part was missing out on game time with both teams.
“You just want to be playing really,” he said.
“Every time I’ve gone away I’ve experienced something different. It was good to know that the boys got a win even though they were missing a few.”
The Jets Reserves secured a 34-26 win over the Albany Creek Gators to remain in second place behind Redcliffe despite missing four players.
While Whittaker and Beattie were in action in Charleville, Chris Ash and Ono So’oialo were preparing to represent the Queensland Rangers in their representative clash against NSW Ron Massey at Pizzey Park on Sunday.
State of play
Intrust Super Cup: Burleigh Bears 46 (Lachlan Burr, Kurtis Rowe, Luke Page, Waka Wanahi 2, Pat Politoni, Cameron Cullen tries; Jamal Fogarty 9 goals) def Ipswich Jets 26 (Michael Purcell 2, Wes Conlon, Liam Capewell, Haydan Lipp tries; Haydan Lipp 2, Wes Conlon goals) at Charleville Show Grounds.