THE Ipswich Jets are facing a looming selection dilemma.
How do they fit Tyson Lofipo into a team with Rod Griffin, Billy McConnachie, Kurtis Lingwoodock and possibly Joe Ofahengaue.
One-time Jets first-choice prop Lofipo made his return from a 13 month lay-off in the Jets reserve grade side’s last start Brisbane Rugby League win over Redcliffe.
He hadn’t played since tearing a cruciate ligament in his knee in April last year.
Since then the Jets have seen Griffin confirm his standing as the best prop around.
Billy McConnachie has come from nowhere (Mt Isa to be precise) to be rated just as highly and Lingwoodock is getting back to his best.
The long recovery from a knee reconstruction is one both Lofipo’s coaches, Ben and Shane Walker know well.
So both were delighted to see Lofipo get through his comeback match unscathed.
“You could see the weight of the world come off his shoulders,” Shane said.
“When you have a serious injury like that you go through the whole raft of emotions.
“You think the world is going to end. Then, post surgery you have to learn to walk and run properly.”
Once all the rehab is over it becomes a mental game.
“You’ve got the strength, power and technique again,” Shane said.
“It’s just confidence.
“I did mine and it dead-set took me five years.
“I did it the same way as Tyson, just stepping, no contact.
“Ben did his and he was back playing touch 10 weeks later, much to the dismay of his surgeon.
“Some people can get over it mentally better than others.”
Lofipo seems to have got over the mental side of things well, though it may be too early to judge.
“He was charging onto it,” Shane said.
“He was really powerful and was getting quick play-the-balls.”
The Jets’ depth at prop this season means Lofipo is likely to bide some time in the BRL before a Queensland Cup return.
But if he continues an upward progression there will be some tough calls to make.
It is a necessary downside to the job as coach, but it comes with a big pay-off – strength in depth.
“No one ever walks into the side,” Shane said.
“It’s got to be earned and the guys who have been there and done the job get first dibs.
“For the first time in the five years we’ve been here we’ve got real depth.
“Last weekend we left Josh Seage out, which was real tough, because the week before against Easts he was one of our best players.
“An hour before the game we still hadn’t made our minds up.
“We know what Tyson is capable of.
“It’s just a matter of getting some more runs under his belt and confidence in his leg and he will come into contention.”