Ipswich invasion hits NRL
The Ipswich revolution is coming to an NRL club near you.
A breeding ground most famous for the Walters brothers and Allan Langer, Ipswich products are again set to flood the NRL with almost half of the team that started the State Championship Final against Newcastle on grand final day now snapped up by NRL clubs.
"The Intrust Super Cup has been a bit of a hidden gem," says Channel Nine Intrust Super Cup commentator and former NRL great Scott Sattler.
"There have been a lot of people that have known there have been talented rugby league players up here but it has taken the strength of the Intrust Super Cup and winning two State Championships for people to sit up and take a lot of notice.
"It's great to see players moving down to NRL clubs but it will be terrible to see if they end up playing in the NSW Cup which is a weaker competition than Intrust.
"And the best thing is they're not spring chickens. They're not guys that are 17 or 18 years of age. It's proving to a lot of rugby league players out there that have been told for many years that at 21 or 23 you're too old and that's not the case."
Back-rower Kurt Capewell was the latest signing, agreeing to join five-eighth Josh Cleeland at the Sharks with Matt Parcell, Rod Griffin, Billy McConnachie and Carlin Anderson also joining NRL clubs full-time when the pre-season begins in the coming weeks.
Parcell is the only member of the group to have played an NRL game to date having made his debut for the Broncos in Round 11 this year while Griffin has played nine Tests for Papua New Guinea and trained with Brisbane last pre-season.
It's an astonishing endorsement of the playing style employed by the Walker brothers who must now embark on a new search for further players they can develop into first-graders.
NRL.com asked Sattler for his appraisal of the Jets ready to take off in 2016.
Matt Parcell (Sea Eagles)
Good judges have touted Parcell as a future Queensland No.9 but with Matt Ballin and Apisai Koroisau also at the club a spot in the Manly 17 for Round 1 is by no means guaranteed. Lightning quick out of dummy-half, Parcell scored a record five tries for Ipswich in their Elimination Final win over Easts and was Man of the Match in the Jets' State Championship win over Newcastle.
Sattler says: "What I love about Matty is his speed, his vision, his evasive skills and his engine. If the game went for a week he'd still be running at the same speed. I think he is quite potentially the next Origin hooker after Cameron Smith retires."
Rod Griffin (Wests Tigers)
Dubbed 'Rod the Bod', the hard-as-nails middle forward capable of playing 160 minutes if required, Griffin finally gets a shot in the NRL after a previous stint with the Tigers almost a decade ago. In the time since he has spent time with Wynnum Manly, Northern Pride, Tweed Heads and Ipswich in the Intrust Super Cup as well as representing his country of birth, Papua New Guinea, on nine occasions. Loves an offload and will be 29 by the time the NRL begins next season.
Sattler says: "The interchange rule has come at the perfect time for him. If the interchange rule went down to six this guy would be starting in an NRL team next year. His greatest capacity is to go for long periods of time and stay in the face of the defence. Yes, he's not 6-foot-3 like a lot of clubs want but he'll still be churning out really big yards at the 78-minute mark."
Billy McConnachie (Wests Tigers)
The man they call 'Madness' was spotted by the Walker brothers playing in a Murri carnival in Ipswich three years ago and after a season disrupted by injury last year got better and better the longer 2015 went on. A devastating runner of the football and bone-rattling defender, McConnachie left Mt Isa behind in search of an opportunity and will live with Griffin as the pair look to make their mark with the Tigers.
Sattler says: "Billy McConnachie reminds me of Martin Lang; his first run in the first set of the game is going to be the same intensity as the run in the last set of the game. He's a guy with what I like to call the 'Where is he?' factor. Ruben Wiki and Gorden Tallis had it; where is he in the defensive line or where is he about to run onto the ball? You're always looking for where those guys are because wherever those guys are, you don't want to be."
Josh Cleeland (Sharks)
In commentary during the State Championship Final Panthers CEO Phil Gould intimated that the club was close to penning a deal with the Ipswich five-eighth but the Sharks swept in with a better offer that will see the 24-year-old in the Shire for the next year at least. His path to first grade is currently blocked by James Maloney, Chad Townsend and Jack Bird but the leader for line-break assists and try assists in the Intrust Super Cup this season obviously has qualities that the Sharks coaching staff admire.
Sattler says: "Defensively outstanding, he adjusts in defence really, really well. If you've got a really dynamic No.6 or No.7 with a bit of spontaneity or flair, Josh Cleeland is the guy that will keep the whole team heading in the same direction. He's going to be a guy who if you have injuries or around Origin time will be a ready-made fix, a little bit like Sam Williams at Canberra."
Kurt Capewell (Sharks)
A towering centre who made a stunning transition to rangy back-rower in 2015, Capewell has signed a two-year deal at Cronulla after shunning interest to join the Broncos under-20s system four years ago in order to develop his game against men in the Intrust Super Cup. Having now proven himself at the senior level with Ipswich he is ready for the next step.
Sattler says: "When you talk about prototypes that a lot of NRL clubs are looking for, 6-foot-2, big rangy build, a really good change of direction, he can kick, he can pass, he's got all the tricks of the trade. It's just about him now getting into a system that thinks run before pass. He's got the perfect build to be a back-rower and I expect pretty big things from Kurt Capewell."
Carlin Anderson (Broncos)
He may have looked a bit shaky under the high ball during the State Championship final but fullback Carlin Anderson possesses a freakish turn of foot and an innate ability to find the try-line. Scored one of the most extraordinary tries of the season in Week One of the Intrust Super Cup finals and joins the Broncos on a 12-month deal where his best chance of an NRL debut will be on the wing.
Sattler says: "He's an outstanding talent. He's got speed, he's got great intuition for such a young player and he's got a fantastic attitude by all accounts. Coming through at the same time as Cameron Munster, we're going to see a battle for the Queensland No.1 jersey between those two guys for a lot of years. Different styles but equally as exciting. I think he's an amazing player and has got a big future if his attitude is as good as what everyone says it is."