Ask former Rabbitohs Shane and Ben Walker what people can expect of their Ipswich Jets in tomorrow’s NRL State Championship decider against Newcastle, and the response is as ominous as it is exciting – “expect the unexpected.”
The brothers, who played for the Rabbitohs in the early to mid-2000s, have been heading a kind of revolution at Ipswich in recent seasons in their capacity as joint head coaches – one that has seen the Jets attract plenty of attention for what has at the least been described as an ‘unorthodox’ style of playing Rugby League.
Shane, who played 67 games for the Rabbitohs between 2003 and 2006, spoke to Rabbitohs.com.au ahead of this Sunday’s second ever State Championship decider to talk about his team’s style.
“Any other team, you kind of know what to expect; five hit-ups and a kick on the end of it, and things just keep going from there,” said Walker.
“We’re not that team, and we think that this is the way the game should be played. In terms of playing style, we’re the complete opposite to any team you’ve seen either in the NRL or any other comp.”
“There’s running side-ways, early kicks, short kick-offs – everything you wouldn’t expect to see from any team in the NRL, we tend to do it because it plays to our strengths. It’s kind of like the Harlem Globetrotters.
“The style comes from a mixture of influences, but in some ways it’s like just playing in the back-yard with your mates.”
For Walker, the development of his team’s unique style was born as much out of a desire to break down and challenge the norms of the game as from a conscious effort to play to the strength of he and his brother’s players.
“Every player has their own skill-set and their own way of doing things, so our mentality is to encourage that natural feel,” said Walker.
“It’s attracted a lot of attention and the reason why people are paying attention is because they love watching us play. It’s just exciting – I think as a team we’ve managed to score the highest percentage of tries from outside the 50 metre line.”
Shane and Ben’s Jets will take on NSW Cup champions the Newcastle Knights, who last week upset the Wyong Roos to claim the Premiership – achieving the feat from seventh spot on the ladder.
The Jets meanwhile finished in third spot on the Intrust Super Cup table on 36 competition points, before going on to steal the Premiership from the Townsville Blackhawks by 32-20 – setting up this weekend’s clash in Sydney before the historic all Queensland NRL Grand Final.
A third Walker brother and former Rabbitoh will also be a part of the spectacle this Sunday, with Chris Walker this week having been named in jumper number 19.
“We’re really excited for our guys to head down to Sydney and to show what they have at ANZ Stadium – expect the unexpected.”
NRL State Championship
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS v IPSWICH JETS – ANZ Stadium, Sydney - Sunday October 4.
Kick-off: 3.40pm AEDT
Broadcast: LIVE on Channel 9, LIVE HD on GEM and FOX Sports Channel 501
Ipswich Jets: 1. Carlin Anderson 2. Marmin Barba 3. Liam Capewell 4. Nemani Valekapa 5. Richard Pandia 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Dane Phillips 8. Josh Seage 9. Matt Parcell 10. Rod Griffin 11. Sam Martin 12. Kurt Capewell 13. Keiron Lander (c) 14. Landon Hayes 15. Kurtis Lingwoodock 16. Billy McConnachie 22. Fakahoko Teutau 17. Peter Whittaker 18. Haydan Lipp 19. Chris Walker
Coaches: Ben and Shane Walker
Newcastle Knights: 1. Jake Mamo 2. Honeti Tuha 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Joseph Tapine 5. Ken Tofilau 6. Carlos Tuimavave 7. Jaelen Feeney 8. Damian Sironen 9. Danny Levi 10. Sam Mataora 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Jacob Saifiti 13. Clint Newton (c) 14. George Ndaira 15. Marvin Filipo 16. Michael Steele 17. Josh King 18. Luke Yates 27. Tama Koopu
Coach: Matt Lantry