Next generation to fill Jets’ void

NO LACEY, Neale, Malone, Winterfield or McInally – no worries.

That’s the message from the Ipswich Jets ahead of their opening round of trials against Easts at Laidley on Saturday.

Walker is more than happy with his squad’s readiness for competitive matches.

“Absolutely,” he said.

“On Friday we had them separated into three groups for an opposed session and you could tell the boys really need trials.

“They were really ripping in.

“When that happens, you know they’re ready to go.”

With a heap of off-season departures, the Walker brothers have had to tailor the pre-season to create more match simulation in order to get the new players up to speed with the way the Jets play.

It is the new players and those vying for the spots of the departed players the coaches are most eager to run their eyes over on Saturday.

The Jets have holes to fill up front following Nat Neale’s move to Souths in the NRL, Rowan Winterfield’s return to the family farm in Blackbutt and Jacob Ling’s defection to Easts.

In their place, the likes of Billy McConachie, Mahe Paseka, Jake O’Doherty, Tom Williams, Josh Seage and Fred Tilla are in contention for Queensland Cup spots. “They’re obviously quality players,” Shane Walker said of the departed stars.

“They bring a skill set that has gone. But in the same way that two years ago we went through a similar situation with Ramon Filipine leaving.

“He gave us 25 hit-ups a game and you think ‘where’s it going to come from?’ Then Tasi Tasi stepped up. Whenever someone goes, it gives another bloke an opportunity. It’s exciting.”

The toughest player to replace is likely to be halfback and former vice-captain Ian Lacey. In his absence, last season’s five-eighth Dane Phillips will start at halfback with Walker admitting the halves were “not set in stone” yet.

Ollie Olds, Chris Ash, Josh Cleeland and Toowoomba product Hayden Lipp are the leading contenders to partner Phillips at this stage, Walker said.

“They’ll be fine,” Walker said.

“The good thing is they’re all capable. I’ve got 100 percent confidence in any one of them stepping up to the plate.”

Further out in the backs, Walker believes returned veteran Scott Ireland and former Brisbane Broncos under-20 player Kurt Capewell are the leading contenders to fill the shoes of the departed Donald Malone and Jarrod McInally, who may well line up opposite the Jets for Easts on Saturday.

Thanks to the QT, Jay Buchan and Claudia Baxter. for more go to