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Last hurrah for Lofipo: An Ipswich Jet for life

For 5558 days, Tyson Lofipo has lived the life of an Ipswich Jet.

Making his debut on June 24, 2006, this weekend’s match against Norths Devils is set to be his 210th and final game for the club.

Lofipo announced his intention to retire with his team mates on Tuesday evening, to bring to a close a storied Intrust Super Cup career.

The powerful forward will retire with the second most games for the Jets and will sit equal with Burleigh’s Shane O’Flanagan with the 12th most games in Intrust Super Cup history.

“Covid probably opened my eyes to being at home more and being with my family,” Lofipo said.

“It’s been a long time and a great career, I have had so much fun and enjoyed it.

“I came to the Jets straight from school and played Intrust Super Cup, that was great, and then to play 200 games.

“I got really emotional telling the Jets boys and maybe I could have played another year, but it’s time.

“I have met so many great people and have friends forever.”

Tyson Lofipo is a Jet through and through

Although 2021 has been a tough season, Lofipo has no doubt the Jets are in for much better days.

“I think they are in good shape; I look around and I see Todd White, Blake Lenehan and Tyler Coburn and they are me in 2006.

“The Jets are safe.

“They just have to stick it out and be prepared to improve and get better.

“The Jets have seen plenty of grim times, but we always come out the other side.

“I remember in 2013 I was entertaining the thought of going to Norths, they made a really good offer and I went there and met with them.

“I sat in their office and I just thought ‘what am I doing, I can’t play against the Jets’.

“I went home, back to Ipswich.”

When the talk of highlights comes up, Lofipo shows his true green-and-white selfless heart.

“It’s 2015, which some people might say is strange because I was injured and didn’t play nearly all year, but to be in the squad when the Jets won their first premiership is special.

“My wife Nat has been tremendous my whole career, the injuries I have had and she’s been there.

“I started at the Jets as an 18-year-old with no girlfriend, no children and no house. On Saturday, I leave a husband, father and we own a house, we have built a life.”

Lofipo started out as a winger and now finishes in the front row with his room mate and best mate Jets captain Nat Neale beside him.

“He’s my best mate and is the best man at my wedding in a few weeks,” Neale said.

“He does so much around the group, he’s been tremendous for the Jets for a long time.

“I will be sad on Saturday, but I am happy he is moving on and he’s content.

“We will miss him next year off the field because he is so good at little things that bring the boys together, but, on the field, he beats the first man every time and gets us forward.”

Ipswich Jets captain Nat Neale lines up alongside his good mate Tyson Lofipo. Photo: Jorja Brinums / QRL
Ipswich Jets captain Nat Neale lines up alongside his good mate Tyson Lofipo. Photo: Jorja Brinums / QRL

Off the field, Lofipo’s absence will be felt as well.

The big front rower is a Jets role model and is a walking, talking example of being a Jet.

Jets Intrust Super Cup manager Wade Glass has been with Lofipo on trips away and training since 2015 and observed first-hand his contribution to the club.

“In all my years involved in footy and footy clubs, Tyson is the best at welcoming new players and young fellas into the club,” Glass said.

“In my opinion, he should win clubman of the year every year.

“Tyson helps me out all the time, not just trips away, he always does the speeches when we welcome milestones at training and birthdays.

“It’s a small thing but it’s massive in a footy club.

“That’s going to be missed.”

Tyson Lofipo in action for the Ipswich Jets in 2011. Photo: QRL
Tyson Lofipo in action for the Ipswich Jets in 2011. Photo: QRL

If Bono missed a U2 concert, you’d quickly find out how massive his contribution is and come March 2022 when the Jets need a tough carry or when they need some fast feet at the line – someone will say Lofipo would be handy right now.

Jets chair Steven Johnson knows where the Jets will miss Lofipo the most.

“In the heart,” Johnson said. “The Ipswich Jets love the big man and he loves Ipswich Jets and the city of Ipswich.

“Everyone who has been in the Jets sheds has seen the pride and the passion that exudes from him when he sings the team song, no matter the injuries or the exhaustion, he gives it his all.

“As a club leader, Tyson has a real aura and presence, is like a giant magnet for new Jets; his love of the club is contagious and he helps the new Jets buy into our values.

“Tyson sets a standard for every Jet with his resilience and professionalism, but importantly with his commitment to family, faith, work and community showing how an elite player can have a wonderfully balanced life and still be a great player.

“Rugby league needs more Tyson Lofipo.”