Ipswich High pursues footy excellence
The Ipswich State High 1st XIII endeavours to scale the schoolboy rugby league mountain and reach heights not attained by any group in the elite excellence program's history when the prestigious Langer Cup gets underway on July 29.
They came agonisingly close to claiming a breakthrough title last season, finishing tied first but slipping to second behind perennial heavyweight Palm Beach Currumbin on for and against.
It was a remarkable effort from a talented Ipswich contingent, which propelled lightning-fast back rower Ativalu Lisati to a Penrith Panthers deal. With lofty standards firmly in place, the stunning giant-killing performance will also serve as a yardstick for this side and a benchmark to guide its aspirations.
Head coach Josh Bretherton said the bar had to be set high for this year's bumper crop and the goal nothing less than coming home on top.
The competition structure will see the best four face off in semi-finals.
Bretherton believes his men will be there.
"We would expect of ourselves that we would play semi-finals,' he said.
"We have to expect that of ourselves. The goal on top of that is to try to go for the top. It is a massive goal. It is not something that we say lightly. It's not something that we think will just be handed to us. It is something an Ipswich High side has never done but we're going to set the goal and go."
In a year not affected by coronavirus, Langer Cup rounds are spaced, allowing players enough time between each taxing contest to recover from niggling injuries. Testing themselves in a condensed Langer Cup, players will need to back up week-after-week. There is little doubt the increased load will take its toll on the developing bodies.
Bretherton anticipates this campaign to require a collective effort like never before that will examine the depth which has been building in Ipswich High's ranks for sometime.
"There is the potential we may use more guys in first grade than previous seasons," he said.
"Normally, if you get a small injury quite often that means you don't miss a game because there may be two weeks in between games.
"With the competition this year, if you lose two weeks to an ankle, you will physically lose two games, so little things like that may have an effect.
"Depth and what that next tier below are doing and how they are preparing themselves are going to be really important this year."
Maintaining the highest standards both on and off the field is always a priority at Ipswich High and those discipline areas will also be keys moving forward. Having missed so much school of late, the seniors are entering a critical time as they manage their considerable rugby league obligations and 'play catch-up' leading into the decisive phase of their educations and major exams.
Staff will continue to support and encourage all students to pursue their ambitions and fulfil their potential, especially the footballers who are leaders among their peers.
"If you talk schooling for example, we are always trying to push them to be better versions of themselves," Bretherton said.
"We're going to have to really push them academically to make sure that they're still achieving what they want to achieve, and that they get through year 12 with opportunities and pathways.
"And then separate to academic, off the field they are going to have to be really disciplined with things like recovery, eating the right food and sleeping the right amount. They are going to be very busy guys on a very busy schedule, so all of those little things are going to be super important to having a successful year."
Ipswich High will meet Palm Beach Currumbin, Keebra Park, Marsden, and Wavell. It is not yet known who will be Ipswich's first-up opponent. St Mary's College Toowoomba will start favourite when they meet Coombabah SHS in the playoff for the sixth Langer Cup position.
The outfit from up the range held its own in the top flight last year with a roster comprising predominantly of year 11s. Bretherton predicted they would only improve but he would not rule out the underdogs.
"St Mary's have a generation of guys in their current years 12s that are really talented," he said.
"But Coombabah is a good school with a great history, so they are just as capable of pulling off an upset.
"There is big pressure on both those schools. It's a touch position to be in."