A familiar presence has returned to the Ipswich Jets – in season 2019, "the headgear" will be back at North Ipswich.
Josh Cleeland made his debut for the Jets in Round 3, 2014 and took no time to assert himself as one of the most talented players in the competition.
In amongst the important performances in finals – including winning the 2015 title - one game that stands out for Jets fans is from a cold late August night in Ipswich.
The Jets were in an arm wrestle against Mackay and while had their noses in front 10-4 at halftime; the result was far from certain.
Ipswich coaches Ben and Shane Walker stood in front of their players at the break to bang home the importance of defence in the second half and to let attack take care of itself.
Fast-forward 40 minutes and the Jets had won 62-10 with the five-eighth named players’ player after he made 211 metres, produced seven tackle busts, made three line breaks and to top it all off, scored a try.
Overall, he played 49 Intrust Super Cup games and 50 games in total for the Jets in his previous time with the Jets that included the 2015 Intrust Super National Championship win over Newcastle.
When the 2019 season rolls around the headgear, dummy and little jink will return to North Ipswich.
While Cleeland was away from the Intrust Super Cup, he was named NSWRL five-eighth of the year twice, won a the Intrust Super Premiership with the Bulldogs and went on to claim a second Intrust Super Championship title, claiming with it the player of the match honours.
In doing so, he joined former Northern Pride representatives coach (currently an assistant at the Rabbitohs) Jason Demetriou, forward Tyrone McCarthy and Shaun Nona (who has moved to the Blackhawks this year) as the only men to win multiple State Championships on NRL grand final day.
Cleeland’s Bulldogs side (which also featured Emerging Origin representative Rhyse Martin) claimed the 2018 crown with a strong win over Dolphins that was set up by his crafty work in the lead-up to halftime that turned the match to Canterbury’s favour.
Match: Jets v Blackhawks
Round 1 -
Venue: North Ipswich Reserve, Brisbane
The West End Bulldogs junior reflected on his time in Sydney with Newtown (after his was originally signed by Cronulla Sharks for the 2016 season) and the Bulldogs.
“I definitely improved as a person and a player ... while it might have been a bit frustrating (not to have been given an NRL opportunity),” he said.
“I am just happy to be home; it feels a bit new but plenty is still the same.”
Ben Walker is just as happy to have his number six back too.
“You forget how classy he is and what he can do on the field when you don’t see him every week,” his premiership-winning coach said.
“It is great to have him back after three years away.”
Jets’ fans will not have forgotten his prowess in the white and green and it will only take one dummy run to the line and that headgear coming out the other side to refresh their memory.
- Read more player transfer news here > Intrust Super Cup news