SITTING second on the Queensland Cup ladder, with Ben Hannant in the team and playing at home against the second-last side, the situation is looking rosy for the Ipswich Jets today.
But the Jets know that having a former Test prop in the line-up doesn’t ensure a win over the Central Queensland Capras this afternoon.
They proved as much to a Souths-Logan team featuring Josh Papalii last weekend.
If Papalii’s contribution was limited, it was because the Jets paid him plenty of attention.
Hannant can expect similar attention from the Capras but if it happens, it could create even more space for in-form Jets prop Rod Griffin and the rest of the forwards at North Ipswich Reserve.
“Everyone wants to prove themselves against the top payers,” Lander said. “And Ben has played at the top level.
“We’ll keep them pretty honest across the park so if they want to give Ben extra attention, I’m sure we can take advantage of that.”
The Jets have surprised many to ride in second spot on the Queensland Cup after 10 rounds.
But Lander is not surprised.
“We knew with our pre-season and style of footy that we wanted to be near the top and defend strongly,” he said.
“We weren’t too worried about other people’s expectations of us.”
Nor does he think other teams have underestimated the Jets this season.
“When teams play us, over the last three or four years, since Ben and Shane (Walker) have been on board, they know they have to turn up because we do. But when you’re top of the ladder, people always want to knock you off more.”
The bad news for opponents is the Jets remain a long way from their best, according to the skipper.
“We’re still working on our game plan and our individual efforts and tidying little things up,” he said. “If we’re at our best at the moment, it’s a bit scary.
“The good thing is we’re not.”
Although the Capras languish at the wrong end of the ladder, Lander insists no-one is taking them lightly. Their 36-0 win over Sunshine Coast last weekend shows they can play.
“They’ve had some quite good wins lately,” Lander said.
“Their five-eighth (Mark Johnstone) is a good player.
“They’ve got Andrew Dale back; he’s a very strong ball runner.
“But we’ve got to worry about playing our own style of footy and turning up.”
Lander’s season is a reflection of the Jets’, with the hard-as-nails backrower delighted to be able to sustain an injury-free run.
“I’m enjoying rugby league,” he said. “I’m holding together and keeping fit, which is a good thing for me.
“I’m always looking to improve.”
Ipswich Jets side for today’s game: 1 Javarn White, 2 Kurt Capewell, 3 Nemani Valekapa, 4 Brendon Marshall, 5 Carlin Anderson, 6 Josh Cleeland, 7 Dane Phillips, 8 Ben Hannant, 9 Troy O’Sullivan, 10 Rod Griffin, 11 Kurtis Lingwoodock, 12 Sam Martin, 13 Keiron Lander (c), 14 Tariki Peneha, 17 Marmin Barba, 19 Wes Conlon, 22 Matt Parcell.
Today (5pm): Ipswich Jets v CQ Capras North Ipswich Reserve. Referee: Jarrod Cole. Head to Head: Ipswich 21, Central 11, drawn 1. Live call: http://www.phoenixradio.com.au
State of play: All eyes will be on Ben Hannant’s return to the Intrust Super Cup. Brisbane Bronco Hannant will play for the Jets in his first Cup game since July 2006, when he turned out for the Toowoomba Clydesdales. Hannant played for the Jets in a pre-season trial earlier this year. But there is a lot more at stake this time, with the former Maroons prop hoping to push his claims for an NRL return. The Capras appear to be a team on the rise after a 36-0 win over the Sunshine Coast last week. Ipswich is also riding high on the back of five-straight wins. A Capras player worth following closely is the gifted Marlon Doak. The electric runner last weekend scored four tries.