After a long year away from football, Ipswich Jets duo Blake Lenehan and Tyler Coburn made their return to the field last month, but not in the green and white of their Intrust Super Cup team.
Instead, the duo played their first trial game of 2021 with the Knights in their match against Cessnock Goannas, taking full benefit of the player pathway partnership recently struck by Ipswich and Newcastle Knights.
The pair were selected by Jets coach Keiron Lander to spend four weeks taking part in pre-season training with the Knights in the lead up to Christmas, before heading back to Ipswich to prepare for the 2021 season.
“It was good playing, because last year was cancelled after Round 1, so it was good,” Coburn said of his experience in the trial game.
“I was nervous, I was definitely nervous, because I hadn’t played in so long, but it was good to run out with some of the boys that we had trained with because we did pre-season as well.
“It was good for me and Blake to have a run with those boys and see how they prepare for games and how they go about everything; it was a good experience.
“Keiron picked two of us, me and Blake, to go down and we went down the start of December, so we were there for about four weeks.
"We did the NRL pre-season, we struggled to begin with because we didn’t have footy all year and those boys kind of just continued training the whole time, but we got into the swing of it and we were at every training session every day so we got through it and it was good.”
For Lenehan, the experience of being a full-time rugby league player was a real eye opener.
“It was good for us to go down and learn what it’s like to be in a system full-time, training everyday instead of working, which was pretty good,” Lenehan said.
“It’s all the things that you miss out on playing here... they really go into your wrestle skills, and your passing, they have their own session for passing, your gym is a lot more structured around your footy.
“You are just living and breathing it, rather than doing it three afternoons (a week).
“We went down for a month – it was full on. It took a while for the body to get used to it, after a week, you can tell you have been doing it all week.
“Towards the end of it, it started to get a bit more comfortable, and you kind of didn’t want it to end.
“It kind of opened my eyes up too, I would rather be doing that than working as well, so I have set some goals for the year to try and have a good year and try and get back down there, and if not there, somewhere else.”
This year, the pair are looking forward to Round 1 kicking off after having the past season off football where they either “chilled” or caught up with friends.
“I am just keen for this year and hopefully COVID stays away and we have a good year,” Coburn, a former Souths Logan Magpies junior and son of club great Danny Coburn, said.
“My goals for the year are just to play consistent Cup footy... I broke into the team last year, so I want to maintain that this year.”
Lenehan, who in previous seasons has been an established member of the Cup squad, said he was excited about the year to come and was hopeful that a solid season on the field would translate into more NRL opportunities in the future.
“I am keen, I am keen for the travel as well … I miss the away games, going to PNG or Thursday Island (for Get in the Game Country Week) and stuff like that," Lenehan said.
“I am keen, keen to get back into the swing of things and hang out with the boys every week pretty much.
“Hopefully, Adam (O’Brien) keeps watching us up here and see how we are going up here.
“Anything can happen, I just want to try and have a big year.”