IF JOSH Cleeland should be on the radar of NRL clubs, as his Ipswich Jets teammate Shane Walker reckons, then fellow centre Nemani Valekapa should be playing NRL this week.
Valekapa’s form has been outstanding this season and he showed how good he is in the Jets’ 32-16 win over Tweed Heads at North Ipswich.
He works his socks off through a match, looking for the ball constantly – be it to relieve pressure on the forwards by taking a hit-up near his own line, or when opportunities appear out wide.
When that happens, opposing defenders tremble.
On Saturday Tweed had the early momentum and scored first, before the Jets settled into their groove.
Then Valekapa received the ball form a standing start, with two defenders five metres in front of him, 60m out from the Tweed try-line.
He was close to top speed when he got between them, his fend did the rest and he was away.
As soon as he found space he had winger Marmin Barba and fullback Carlin Anderson looming in support either side and Barba finished the move to put the Jets level at 6-all.
When Donald Malone left the Jets two years ago some wondered how you could replace such a miraculous attacking player.
One who could conjure a try from seemingly nothing on a regular basis.
Valekapa has matched Malone as an attacking threat and his work rate and defence make him a better player.
“I was really happy with how I played. Not only me but all the boys,” Valekapa said.
Valekapa scored himself early in the second half but it took the Jets three-quarters of the match to put it beyond the visitors.
The heart breaker for the Seagulls came shortly after Barba fielded a kick into the Jets’ in-goal.
Barba stood up half the Tweed team, it seemed, running more than 100m to score and give the Jets a two try buffer.
The win took the Jets to equal top of the Queensland Cup ladder, following Townsville’s 22-16 loss to PNG.
Valekapa puts the Jets’ strong run this season down to the bonds forged on the training paddock, based around support and respect.
“Probably this is from the love and teamwork we show each other at training,” he said. “Everything in football comes from training. It’s all there because we help each other.
“When we go on the field we go as a team. One love.”
This weekend, the Jets travel to Cherbourg to take on the Souths Logan Magpies while the Tweed Heads Seagulls welcomes Burleigh in the rivalry round.
Ipswich Jets 32 (Marmin Barba 2, Chris Walker, Nemani Valekapa, Sam Martin, Billy McConnachie tries; Carlin Anderson 4 goals) defeated Tweed Heads Seagulls 16 (Matt Srama, Matt Robinson, Leva Li tries; Jamal Fogarty 2 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.