Nat Neale: "I want to fix last year"

If you sit in the Ipswich Jets’ dressing room before a game waiting to be inspired by Nat Neale’s words, you will leave without inspiration.

But if you head out to the grandstand and see him play, you will feel inspired to achieve.

He is not known as a talker – all you have to do is watch.

Something about forward leaders in rugby league. Often they do not talk, they just do.

If you think of Gorden Tallis, you think of eyes rolling around his head and that stare. That ‘do not come over here’ look at the opposition.

If you think of Arthur Beetson, you think of that slow jog to the middle of Lang Park. Vaseline all over his big middle section. Follow me.

“He doesn’t say how to do it, he just does it and that’s why I would have loved to play with him,” Jets co-coach Shane Walker said.

"Love to play with him" – that says everything.

Neale will be playing for the XXXX Queensland Residents for the fourth time when he runs out tomorrow.

He debuted off the bench in 2013 after 54 games for the Jets and played again in 2017, 2018 and now 2019, having played his 136th game for Ipswich last Saturday against the CQ Capras.

Neale will be keen to erase the memory of 2018; he is one of only two players to remain from the disappointing 36-20 loss to New South Wales.

“I want to fix last year,” Neale bluntly stated.

Neale played 61 minutes and made 49 tackles in a game where Queensland were starved of possession.

New South Wales had seven more sets than Queensland in the first 40 minutes and got off to a flyer, leading 30-0 at the break.

“It’s always hard in rep camps to come together, we were a tight unit in 2017; but last year it was a bit harder and the results were very different,” Neale said.

The Jets captain speaks with authority on wanting to fix that.

“Camp is great for meeting guys, when you play against them you might think ‘I don’t like that guy at all’, but then you spend a week with them and realise they’re really good guys.

“Last year, (Tigers fullback) Scott Drinkwater said to me ‘I just thought you were the crankiest man alive when we played against each other, but this week you’ve been really good’. I probably am too cranky, he was right.

“This year, I am determined to make sure we all come together.”

Nat Neale in action for the Jets against Northern Pride.
Nat Neale in action for the Jets against Northern Pride.

Drinkwater reflected on Neale and his time with him in camp last year.

“Nat has been a great leader for the Jets; he’s still one of the most consistent players in the Intrust Super Cup,” Drinkwater said.

“He’s more actions than words which is a good quality to have.”

Jets co-coach and former NRL half Ben Walker spoke of the importance of having someone like Neale beside you on the field.

“He is the type of forward that any young half would love playing alongside,” Walker said.

“Nat gives his players confidence to express themselves with the knowledge that he will clean up if things don’t go to plan.”

XXXX Queensland Residents half and Jets’ team mate Josh Cleeland will be playing his first game for Queensland at any level on Sunday and will be looking to his big mate to lead him.

“Having Nat here helps me a lot. I know him, and he is so easy to talk to and will answer anything you ask him,” Cleeland, who has been named XXXX Queensland Residents captain, said.

Nat Neale and Josh Cleeland of the Ipswich Jets will both represent the XXXX Queensland Residents team.
Nat Neale and Josh Cleeland of the Ipswich Jets will both represent the XXXX Queensland Residents team.

A forward that often plays the full 80 minutes; he does not want to come off, does not want to leave his team mates.

A player who values actions more than words, he just wants his team mates to watch and follow his lead.