Courtesy of Ben Wilmott at the QT
IPSWICH Jets fullback Wes Conlon has touted tomorrow’s clash with Central Queensland as his mid-season grand final.
Wearing a special jersey designed by students from Bremer State High School, Conlon will be fired up for the Jets Indigenous Appreciation round.
Conlon admitted he had been in pre-game mode for days in preparation for this weekend’s game against the CQ Capras.
“I’ve been thinking about it all week,” he said.
“It’s like a grand final midway through the year because it means everything to me.
“Growing up and watching Indigenous players like Marmin (Barba)’s brother Aaron on TV made me set my own goals and to see them come true is like a dream. I feel so connected to the tribes here in Ipswich and I feel at home here. Like it’s my backyard.”
The Jets are chasing a third straight win against the Capras. They will benefit from having a bye last week.
Growing in confidence after notching important wins against the Norths Devils and Townsville Blackhawks, the relatively new Jets team have found their rhythm at the right time in the Intrust Super Cup competition.
After injuries sidelined Marmin Barba and Carlin Anderson, the sole responsibility of fullback has fallen on the mature shoulders of Conlon. He believes the time is right for the Jets to make their mark.
“The team we have isn’t looking for someone else to do the job,” he said.
“Everyone clicked last year but with a new team we were looking for someone else to step up and we went away from what works.
“But you can take a lot from those losses, and our positive talk is doing wonders. Whoever is in the side does their job for each other, it’s that brotherly connection. It’s back to having fun.”
After suffering a season-ending ACL injury last year, Conlon started 2016 running water for the Jets.
That time on the sidelines gave the former Swifts junior time to reflect on how maturity had affected the way he played rugby league.
“You need maturity,” he said. “It is so easy watching from the sidelines. It’s like tunnel vision when you are out there, you can play it in your head but when you are out there it’s a totally different ball game.
“A lot of times when I was playing I looked at the positives, but I never looked at what I was doing wrong.
“Once I corrected that everything I was doing right was already there.”
With the opportunity to play in front of his friends, family and the Aboriginal people of Ipswich, the 26-year-old livewire hopes he can inspire a future generation of Indigenous rugby league stars.
“That’s one of my goals is for the kids to look at people like myself for something to strive for,” he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of bad things growing up and I had to change my whole vision and start afresh.
“It was hard and I’ve done that for my kids and my wife, but anyone who wants to achieve something can just look at what everyone here at the Jets are doing.
“We all come from different backgrounds but at the end of the day it’s all by choices and that’s why I stick to that Deadly Choices example.
“Nothing can beat a healthy body which is why I don’t smoke and I hardly drink. It will be deadly to run out in Indigenous colours and for the kids that designed the jersey.”
Deadly Choices is a school and community based education program which encourages Indigenous people to be healthy role models for family, friends and the broader community.
The Jets have embraced that initiative, making North Ipswich Reserve a smoke and drink-free venue for tomorrow’s games.
Last year the Jets took their Indigenous round north to the Indigenous community of Cherbourg.
This time, it will be local residents taking the road trip to Ipswich, with the Cherbourg Hornets and the Kingaroy Red Ants facing off in a special curtain-raiser for the Intrust Super Cup game from 2.15pm.
“A lot of my family are from Cherbourg so it will be great to see them all come out and play,” Conlon said.
“It was the only game I wanted to play last year. To be in Cherbourg in front of my family was special and now they are coming to my backyard.”
Ipswich Jets Intrust Super Cup, tomorrow (4pm) at North Ipswich Reserve:
1. Wesley Conlon
2. Michael Purcell
3. Ben White
4. Nemani Valekapa
5. Richard Pandia
14. Chris Ash
7. Dane Phillips
22. Tyson Lofipo
9. Mikaere Beattie
16. William McConnachie
21. Jesse Roberts
11. Samuel Martin
10. Nathaniel Neale
6. Haydan Lipp
12. Liam Capewell
13. Fakahoko Teutau
15. Sebastian Pandia
Co-coaches: Ben Walker and Shane Walker.