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Rugby league's bravest heroes

Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent NRL.com Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Air Force team members Callen Burmester and Scott Weston (left) trained alongside Ipswich Jets players Keiron Lander and Haydan Lipp on Thursday night. Copyright: Ipswich Jets Copyright: Courtesy Ipswich Jets

They are the World Cup champions whose heroics stretch far beyond mere metres gained or tackles made.

They present a united force in defence of our nation but for one week of the year their sole purpose is to make their comrades look weak.

The annual Australian Defence Force's Inter Service Rugby League Carnival kicks off at North Ipswich Reserve on Saturday as one of the curtain-raisers to the Intrust Super Cup game between Ipswich and Tweed Heads, two teams coming off narrow Round 1 losses.

Air Force and Navy play the opening game of the carnival on Saturday, Navy back up mid-week to take on defending champs Army with the carnival culminating in the grudge match between Army and Air Force on ADF Appreciation Day next Saturday after Ipswich's clash with Wynnum Manly.

It's the first time that the Defence Force leaguies have shared the stage with such a prestigious competition and Air Force Rugby League committee member Adam Robinson who is based at the RAAF Base at Amberley says that any shared bond is put aside for 80 minutes of game time.

"We're all ADF members so we have a bit of camaraderie and a brotherhood there where we all get on but as soon as those jumpers are pulled on you don't like the bloke in front of you, which I would suggest is the same with State of Origin," Robinson told NRL.com.

"You play next to a bloke for the Titans one day and you're lining up against him the next day.

"The opportunity to play after an Intrust Super Cup game, to have the crowd there and the professionalism and the opportunity for the Air Force team to train alongside the Ipswich Jets, our coach to have the opportunity to pick the brains of the Walker brothers (Ipswich co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker), interacting with [Ipswich Jets CEO] Wayne Wendt and the professionalism of he and his team is something we've never had before."

At the Armed Forces World Cup in England last July the Combined Australian Services team went through the tournament undefeated, knocking over Serbia 112-0, Great Britain 20-16 and then New Zealand 32-22 in the final.

Like their various deployments in strife-torn areas across the globe, on that occasion the Army, Navy and Air Force presented a united front but when it comes to the inter-service carnival, two-thirds of Defence Force personnel are hoping for the same outcome.

"You take more pride in beating Army," Robinson admits. "You play for your team and you support Navy against Army and I think it's the same from the Navy perspective as well.

"Definitely the team to beat and the team everyone loves to beat is Army.

"They have a lot more blokes that can get released so it's just availability. They are strong, they have a team based in Townsville that play together and they've always just been strong.

"I suppose it's a bit like the Queenslander mentality; you can outdo them on paper but as soon as they put that Army jumper on they come out with passion and pride and beat the crap out of Navy and Air Force."

The Ipswich Jets are going all-out in their support of the Inter-Service Carnival with all Defence Force personnel given free entry to next Saturday's ADF Appreciation Day that will feature four games of rugby league culminating with the Army v Air Force at 3.45pm, World War II re-enactment groups, camouflage face painting for kids, military vehicles, Light Horse troops and static displays of remote-controlled aircraft.

For more information on ADF Appreciation Day click here.