Fear us, warns Jets coach
The Jets may be cooling with a bye this weekend, but co-coach Ben Walker has issued a very direct warning to Intrust Super Cup rivals with an eye on taking their crown: You don't want to be playing us anytime soon.
Last week's 24-12 win over the Blackhawks in Townsville was the third significant scalp that Ipswich have claimed in the past month and having been sitting in second-last position on the ladder heading into Round 15 are now in 11th spot and just five points outside the top six.
Ipswich captured the imagination of the rugby league world as they employed an innovative style of football to not only win their first Intrust Super Cup title, but knock over Newcastle in the NRL State Championship on grand final day in Sydney.
‘Every team should be fearing us’
Their success led to a large chunk of their playing roster being signed by NRL clubs for the 2016 season and the retirements of Chris Walker and Keiron Lander meant that it has taken time for the new-look squad to come together.
Rampaging second-rower Billy McConnachie returned late in the pre-season from the Wests Tigers, NRL veteran David Fa'alogo was signed along with the return of Nathaniel Neale and, after a brief flirtation with rugby union, Marmin Barba was welcomed back into the fold.
More important than the new players learning the unorthodox style that the Walker boys implement, Ben says that he and Shane developed an understanding of how best to employ their existing skills into the Jets system.
Back on track
The result has been wins over the PNG Hunters, Norths Devils and Blackhawks in their past four games, which has convinced Walker that a successful defence of their premiership is now well within their reach.
"We've played as well in the last month as we have in the last two years and if I was an outside club looking in I wouldn't like to be coming up against us in the next eight weeks," said Walker, who admitted that his eternal optimism helped him to keep the faith as they lost six matches in seven weeks earlier in the season.
"We're the defending premiers and we're the team that beat them in the grand final last year so we don't fear Townsville and we don't fear any team in the comp. As far as we're concerned every team should be fearing us.
"The way that we're playing right now, I'd be fearful playing against us. The boys are in red-hot form and full of confidence.
"We expect to win every week and we expect to win the competition again this year. Even where we are right now we expect to win it."
On top of the major remodelling of the playing roster Ipswich have also had to deal with major injuries to key players, the latest being a broken jaw suffered by Carlin Anderson to go on top of Barba's broken ankle and a season-ending knee injury to Josh Seage.
It has meant that the Jets have been unable to put the same 17 on the park in successive weeks once this season and no surprise that their recent return to form coinciding with a more stable squad.
"We've had a new team every single week this year, but in the last four weeks we've been able to keep the same squad, even though on the weekend we had two players missing, Carlin Anderson with a broken jaw and David Fa'alogo through suspension," Walker said.
"It's been a really disrupted season but the important thing from our point of view is that we've still got a very good chance of making the semis and right now we're in form and seem to be getting a very similar-looking squad together.
"We're really happy with the group we've got. Our BRL team are undefeated so they're in really good form so as a whole the club's doing really well, it's just the consistency of combinations that's halted us early in the season.
"The group's in tremendous shape right now and we're always confident to win games but it's been nine months since I've been as confident as I am right now.
"I just knew that at some stage we'd find some form and now that we have it's a great feeling. Only the end of the season can stop us.
"We went on a run last year where we won seven games in a row including the two grand finals and if we'd had to play another seven or another 10 we would have won them. That's where we are now."
Fellow Intrust Super Cup clubs, you've been warned.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.