Falcons defy expectations
Wednesday night’s training session with a limited squad was going to serve two purposes for Sunshine Coast coach Craig Ingebrigtsen.
After getting back from their upset of the PNG Hunters at midday on Monday, it was Ingebrigtsen’s first chance to get those Sunshine Coast-based players back on the training paddock.
It was also his only chance to “eyeball” his players to see if they have the energy to train again before their elimination final against Townsville on Saturday.
The Falcons completed a small slice of history last weekend when they became the first Intrust Super Cup side to play in Papua New Guinea in consecutive weeks and their reward is a trip to Townsville to face last year's minor premiers who disposed of Easts Tigers 46-4.
And rather than seeing their arduous travel schedule as an excuse, Ingebrigtsen is urging his players to see the next challenge as an opportunity to achieve something special.
Since I predicted in this very column two months ago that the Falcons would finish 10th, they have won six of their past seven games to be in the final four and the man they call “Trigger” will urge his tired players not to let their position go to waste.
“From my end we've got nothing to lose this weekend,” Ingebrigtsen said.
“We've overachieved and everybody probably thinks we’re not going to beat them, but that's when you are dangerous, when you don’t have a lot to lose.
“We're down to the last four, we haven’t been in this position for a long time, all those factors can be used to motivate anyone to do whatever they need to do.
“The biggest thing for us is making sure that we get enough blokes fit and healthy to compete with them because the longer the game goes and we’re in it we're a big chance.”
With their ties to the Melbourne Storm, the Falcons have not been able to train as a full squad for the past three weeks.
This week, players such as Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Felise Kaufusi, Ryan Morgan and Curtis Scott need to be on hand for the Storm’s captain's run in Melbourne tomorrow (Friday, September 9) before flying to Brisbane tomorrow night.
They will stay overnight before catching a morning flight to Townsville, hop off the plane and get into game-mode for their 4pm clash with the Blackhawks at Jack Manski Oval.
“There's no mistaking what sort of a challenge we’ve got. We’ve got to climb Mt Everest this week; but the little battlers from the Sunny Coast are doing a fair job,” said Ingebrigtsen, who rates influential half Ryley Jacks only a 30% chance of playing due to a foot injury.
“They’re the best side in the competition by a mile from my perspective.
“I make no bones about that, they're the best side we’ve played and been the best side for the past two years.”
That the Falcons are there at all is a credit to preparation and modern science.
Expecting to have to turn around and head back to PNG a week later, Ingebrigtsen chose to rest a number of players in Round 25 and said what they learned from a medical point of view was worth the 34-4 defeat.
“We learnt a lot from that first trip to PNG …,” he said, with the Falcons turning the tables with an 18-12 win to end the Hunters' season last week.
“Our medical staff took ownership of the second trip.
“I noticed on the plane, the medical staff were making sure they were getting their hydrolytes and magnesium tablets and all those things that make sure your footy team is right to play.
“We made sure we did a lot of recovery in PNG. We did ice baths, pool at the hotel and a good stretch at the hotel so we made sure we were really well looked after in that respect.
“This week, it's been all about making sure there's a recovery session in the pool again when we got home, a lot of fluid intake and making sure our supplements intake is right.”
I've written them off once before and as much as “Trigger” would like me to do it again, I'm not going to make the same mistake twice.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.
*Photo in the graphic by Ritchie Duce - Level Eleven Photography.