ITH one team into a grand final and another a win away from it, Ipswich Jets chairman Steve Johnson is a proud man.
But this year’s Queensland Cup performances are the end result of what has been a much bigger, tougher journey, going back to 2010.
That year the Jets claimed the Queensland Cup wooden spoon and coach Glenn Lazarus walked out before the season had even finished.
The decision to hand the reigns to untried assistant coaches Ben and Shane Walker may just have been the smartest thing the club ever did.
In the five years since, the club has made the Queensland Cup finals every season, with the Reserve grade side twice making the grand final, including tomorrow’s Brisbane Rugby League grand final against Wynnum Manly at Langlands Park, Coorparoo.
If the Jets win their Queensland Cup preliminary final against PNG at Wynnum on Sunday they will also advance to the grand final.
“Whatever happens from here this season I am privileged to chair the best little rugby league club in the world,” Johnson said.
“In 2010 we were broke and finished last.
“We decided to make a stand against what we believed was ruining our club and our game.”
That meant taking risks, or so it seemed to most from the outside looking in.
The Walker brothers embarked on a change in the style of footy the Jets played.
It was based on the players they had at their disposal and how best to maximise their limited resources.
It was also based around aspects of the game the Walkers recognised could be exploited because players and coaches had become so set in their ways they were overlooking the obvious.
Why, the Walker brothers asked, would you deliberately instruct your players to run straight into defences who expect that is exactly what you’re going to do and are prepared for it.
So the Walkers invested in their own form of Moneyball, the football management system that brought then Oakland Athletics baseball manager Billy Beane to fame.
They showed the door to the likes of former best and fairest prop Aaron Sweeney, investing instead in local talent and lower profile players in whom the Walkers identified more crucial qualities than raw talent.
An appetite for hard work and competitiveness were the values cherished by the Walkers.
Off the field the club adopted new values as a community leader.
“The mighty Ipswich Jets have changed lives forever and for the better on and off the field,” Johnson said.
“We returned the club to the community by becoming a leader of change, based off our Community Engagement Program.
“This included our Equality Commitment, the only one in Australian sport.
“On the field we returned the club to playing a game and having fun; which is the point of a game after all.”