It seems a lifetime ago when Ipswich Jets forward Tyson Lofipo made his first appearance for the team he is set to play game 200 for this weekend.
The year was 2006; John Howard was Prime Minister, Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back and the Brisbane Broncos were at the top of the NRL, winning that year's premiership.
On June 24 of that year at the North Ipswich Reserve, the Jets played Souths Logan Magpies in the ABC TV game and it was there Lofipo made his Intrust Super Cup debut.
In a high-scoring game, the Magpies beat the Jets 44-34, but emerging from the gloom of a Round 14 loss was a great club career in its early stages.
The Ipswich coach that day was Queensland Origin champion Trevor Gillmeister, who coached the Jets from 2003 to 2006 and gave Lofipo his debut in the statewide competition.
“I remember taking our CEO Craig Teevan to Tyson’s house and talking to his parents about the opportunity we could offer him,” Gillmeister said.
“It was just an opportunity and he’s taken it from there.
“It’s a great achievement to play 200 games at any level, but to play 200 Intrust Super Cup games is outstanding.
“People don’t realise the sacrifice they make, juggling work, and often physical jobs with football and then throw in family as well.
“Lofipo has gone from the wing to the middle too, that’s tremendous."
Fast forward to 2021 and this Saturday against Burleigh Bears, Lofipo is on track to become only the second Jet, behind club great Danny Coburn, to achieve the milestone of 200 games for the club.
It is a huge achievement as more than 4300 men have played in the Intrust Super Cup and only 18 have played 200 games. Only eight other players before him have been able to do it for a single club.
The average Intrust Super Cup career is 27.5 games.
Coburn, who was one of only 610 men so far to play for the Jets, was happy to welcome Lofipo to the Jets 200 club.
“Tyson came into grade as a winger and now terrorises the middle with his awesome footwork,” Coburn said.
“He has had to work hard to overcome some nasty injuries over the years.
“He is as mentally tough as he is physically strong. And above all is a champion off the field.
“Proud to have Tyson in the club; meetings were pretty lonely.”
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Lofipo’s achievement is enhanced by the fact that in 2006, he was part of the team's backline and now, he is a front rower grinding out the metres for the Jets with footwork, toughness and skill every week in the most physically demanding position on the field.
Ipswich Jets chair Steve Johnson has been there for the full evolution of Lofipo, both from winger to front row and young man finding his feet to a man who has grown into an experienced player, a husband and a father.
“We speak of good people often at the Jets and Tyson is one of those good people,” Johnson said.
“It means everything to Tyson to wear the famous green and white of Ipswich and no one has ever worn the colours of our city - captains of Australia and Queensland included - better or with more pride.”
Standing on the opposite side of scrums against Lofipo for a lot of his 200 games has been Rod Griffin.
The Northern Pride forward is not too far off joining the 200 Intrust Super Cup club himself, having currently played 188 games.
“Well first of all, not many people can say they played 200 games in Intrust Super Cup,” Griffin said.
“As a team mate, he always puts the team and the boys before himself, if you were a new guy, he would go out of his way to make you feel welcome and always had time for everyone.
“(He is a) great team mate, but to play against him was a different story.
“He has a wicked step that always gets you off guard, even if you know it’s coming and a very hard man to take down.”
Current Ipswich captain Nat Neale knows what his forward mate, who has scored 24 tries for 96 points, will bring this week; it’s the same as the other 199 games for the Ipswich Jets.
“Tyson will take the first hit up and he’s done that for 199 games, he will put his hand up when we need him and he’s done that for 199 games,” Neale said.
“Tyson is a player that leaves a mark on you, he’s loyal to the Jets and his team mates and he always does his job.”
Match: Bears v Jets
Round 7 -
Venue: Pizzey Park, Gold Coast
Maybe things haven’t changed too much since 2006.
Lofipo is still doing exactly what he did that day against Souths in 2006 and will do it again this week against the Bears when the Jets need him.
This match will be broadcast via Kayo Freebies.
*Statistics by Brad Tallon. Main image: Tyson Lofipo in action in 2012.