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Cup clubs combine forces to get Round 1 clash off the ground

The Townsville Blackhawks and Ipswich Jets had to combine forces last weekend in a bid to keep their Round 1 clash alive, after the Blackhawks unknowingly flew into the southeast without their kit and some of their players’ boots.

It was a case of everything that could go wrong would go wrong for the Blackhawks last week, as they prepared to launch their season at North Ipswich Reserve.

Coach Terry Campese and his men flew down from Townsville on Saturday – on a flight that was already delayed – only to land and discover that a lot of their luggage had been removed from the plane.

This led to an hour of scrambling, as a number of options were bandied about, including delaying their Round 1 meeting with the Jets, cancelling the game altogether or finding something else for the Blackhawks to play in.

The Blackhawks and Jets in action in Round 1. Photo: Justine Parisi/Ipswich Jets
The Blackhawks and Jets in action in Round 1. Photo: Justine Parisi/Ipswich Jets

“It was something we really didn’t prepare for,” Campese said.

“We turned up in Brisbane and were waiting for the bags. Only half came through and I asked the staff at the carousel if they had any more bags coming from Townsville.

“They thought it had all come off so they rung Townsville Airport and we found out they’d taken 49 bags off the plane because it was too heavy but they didn’t notify anyone.

“It was all of our playing gear and a couple of the players’ footy boots. There were two boys without boots and the whole team’s playing kit.”

A few issues arose as the Blackhawks discussed their options with the Queensland Rugby League and the Ipswich Jets – it was too hard to get Townsville on flights back home, the Jets’ Gold Coast Titans affiliate players had already made the journey out to Ipswich, and the gates were open and fans filing in.

So then Townsville came up with a solution – as their two players had found spare boots from teammates to use, why not wear Ipswich’s away gear?

“People had come from all over to watch their sons play footy so we just wanted to make things work,” Campese said.

“We were willing to work with Ipswich to get this game off the ground and that’s what we came up.

“We were more than open to wearing their uniform, even though we have sponsors that pay for spots on jumpers and shorts. We just wanted to make everyone’s time worthwhile.

“Ipswich also said the same thing, that we could use their away strip. It made sense and it didn’t clash. Once the game starts, you don’t really take notice of the badge.

“There’s so many things at play here – officials, crowds, volunteering staff, coffee vendors … it’s not just about us. We have to think about the community.”

Ipswich coach Ben Cross said he was aware of the issues and the different options but agreed there was only one way forward for both teams.

“I got a phone call from our ops manager that the game would have to be delayed or cancelled due to issues with their flight,” he said.

“We just decided to give them the jerseys so they could play the game. No one was hoping to play the game the next day.

“I couldn’t facilitate the same team and Townsville couldn’t either. It was either play it then and there or wipe it altogether.”

The game went ahead with Ipswich in their blue Defence Force Appreciation Day kit while the Blackhawks donned the white and green Ipswich away kit.

The away team ended up coming away with the two points, but for Campese – in his first game as Blackhawks coach – it was certainly an interesting way to begin his Cup career.

“It’s always a big challenge because 80 per cent of preparation is done before kick-off,” Campese said.

“When we’re thrown little hurdles, we have to stay focused… we have to forget about things out of our control.

“The boys really bought into that. No one whinged, no one complained. There was no panic. It was pretty organised considering the short time.

“There was a bit of laughter and jokes about wearing the Jets away kit. But they started the game like there was no distraction.

“Our first 20 minutes was outstanding.

“Between Happy (Blackhawks operations manager Adrian Thomson) and the Jets and the QRL, I thought it was handled with the utmost professionalism and we just got on with it and came up with a solution quite quick.

“Within 45 minutes, it was all sorted. We put the game back an hour and made it worth everyone’s effort and time to get out to Ipswich.

“There was a lot of time at stake so we wanted to make it worthwhile. It was a great game to watch as well. Everyone got their money’s worth.”

The Jets will now turn their attention to the Western Clydesdales in Round 2 while the Blackhawks make the trip back down to the southeast corner, this time to take on the Burleigh Bears.

And Campese has joked he will make sure the same mistakes won’t be repeated.

“You’ll see me out there with a vest on loading the plane myself,” he said.

“But this week we have an earlier flight so we’ll be fine. I can’t see that happening two weeks in a row.”

Main image: Blackhawks players in Jets gear. Photo: Justine Parisi/QRL

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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