Courtesy of Ben Wilmott at the QT
IPSWICH will have experience on their side when they take on Wynnum Manly in this weekend’s preliminary final.
With a premiership under his belt and two tries against West Brisbane last week, Mitch Koina has enjoyed plenty of success since joining the Jets.
As a member of last year’s winning Jets BRL team, the second-rower said he felt more settled going into the finals race a second time.
“This is my second year now at the Jets,” Koina said. “I came down last year at the start of the pre-season and obviously we had a pretty good year.
“Taking out the competition was a pretty good introduction to the club and I have nothing but praises for the club during my time here.
“Everyone is really supportive and friendly, which is just as important off the field.
“I feel a lot more comfortable this year. Last year I didn’t really know anyone except for a few boys from Toowoomba and you are still finding your feet a bit. The second time around has felt like I never left. You come back in and you’ve formed bonds with all these guys.”
Extending their winning streak of 2015, the Jets kick-started their season with 10-straight victories before a mid-season slump saw the defending premiers lose their top spot.
Now back to playing their best football, Koina said confidence had quickly grown amongst the playing group.
“We lost a few players to Cup and that sort of hurt us for a bit,” he said. “It had nothing to do with the blokes we were losing because we had guys coming in and doing the job.
“But just losing that consistency with having the same blokes playing every week and particularly our halves going up meant we lost our spine a bit there. It wasn’t a lack of effort and it took a few weeks to get it right and now we are here.”
“We stuck through it and started to turn it around again. Now we are getting some of that confidence and groove back that we had at the start of the season.”
Finishing the regular season in third, the Jets have found themselves in a different position to last year.
Instead of enjoying a straight run to the grand-final, this time Ipswich have been forced to fight their way through the Easts Tigers and West Brisbane Panthers to set up today’s preliminary final with Wynnum.
Despite the extra challenge, Koina said rather than enjoy a week off, the Jets were a team who relished playing week in, week out.
“It has been tough,” he said. “But we’ve talked as a team and the loss we had in round 11 was good for us. We started getting over confident and having that loss brought us back to being level-headed.
“We’re not going to win without the hard effort and we’ve still ended up in a good position in the finals.”
Now just two wins away from back-to-back premierships, the injury concerns which plagued the Jets season during the year have fled, leaving Ipswich in a prime position to hoist the trophy again.
“We don’t have too many injury concerns which can always be a major concern at this point in the year,” he said. “It’s been timed pretty well to have a full 19-man squad fit and healthy to play.
“Ono is the only concern for us at the moment and hopefully we can get him back because we all know what a massive strike-weapon he is. Besides that we are full strength and ready to go
“Last week was really tight but we are confident in our attacking ability and we know if we can defend well the points will come. Hopefully it’s not as close this weekend, it’d be a lot less stressful.”
The winner of today’s clash will take on Redcliffe in next week’s grand final.
1. Ono So’Oialo
2. Francis Ledger
3. Josh Damen
4. Tu’u Maori
5. Finecallum Faingaa
6. Mikaere Beattie
7. Chris Ash
8. David Tahavalu
9. Peter Whittaker
10. Rowan Winterfield
11. Mitch Koina
12. Matthew Brown
13. Lachlan Roe
14. Isi Hafoka
15. Ben Sullivan
16. Max Felosi
17. Toby Key
Coach: Mark Bishop
BRL preliminary final: Wynnum Manly Redland City Seagulls v Ipswich Jets from 3.30pm today, Emerson Park.
BRL grand final: Redcliffe Dolphins v winner of preliminary final from 3.30pm on September 17, Bishop Park.