Western Corridor team would star says bid chief
THE MYTH that there isn't enough talent in the game to sustain an expanded NRL competition has been blown out of the water.
The Western Corridor region has produced a cavalcade of rugby league stars over the decades but right now there are enough outstanding footballers with substantial links to the area to field a side that could win a title.
That is the view of Western Corridor NRL bid boss Steve Johnson, and he has given the QT a list of names to prove it.
While often tagged as an Ipswich bid, the Western Corridor NRL catchment area includes Souths-Logan territory, Ipswich, Toowoomba and west into country areas such as Roma.
Johnson provided a top 17 and a list of players who either played their junior football in the region or Intrust Super Cup for Souths-Logan or Ipswich.
Johnson's list proves you don't have to go back in history to the likes of Allan Langer, the Walters brothers and Peter Ryan to put together a team of superb players from the region.
How does a spine of Anthony Milford, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith sound?
"Those players are all local boys whose talent was developed," Johnson said.
"People who say there is not enough talent for expansion don't understand grass roots rugby league.
"That debate over whether there is enough talent is irrelevant to the Western Corridor bid because we keep generating quality players for the NRL.
"There was an article written for ninesmsn.com about the 10 upcoming best talents in the NRL and three of them - Matt Parcell, Billy McConnachie and Carlin Anderson - were from Ipswich and one, Ash Taylor, is from Toowoomba and his father played for the Jets.
"Cooper Cronk went to school at St Laurence's in South Brisbane, which is right in Souths-Logan territory.
"The QT did yarns with him in 2011 and 2013 where he said he would be keen to come back and join the Western Corridor team
"New Broncos signing Caleb Timu is an Ipswich boy.
"Israel Folau was a Goodna boy. Anthony Milford went to school at St Peter Claver College and Joe Ofahengaue is an Ipswich boy and he still lives here in Collingwood Park.
"JT went to high school in Toowoomba and played junior football for Souths Sunnybank, which is a part of our catchment
"They are all from the Western Corridor, and when you go through the ranks of the NRL there are many others."
Season 2015 was a stellar year for the Ipswich Jets, with six players signed by NRL clubs for next year, so all of those players would be in the mix.
It is remarkable that the Jets have supplied what is a quarter of the full complement of an NRL team's top 25 squad from one premiership winning team.
Because the clubs in the region have proven so successful at developing players, Johnson is adamant that Queensland needs another team to service its young talent to prevent players being forced to relocate.
"All the life issues that are associated with that can be overcome by us getting our own team," he said.
"Of each 10 players that leave the western corridor to fulfil those dreams, eight come back with broken hearts."
The history of a player such as Manly hardman Steve Matai reveals why Johnson has him in the squad.
"We brought him to the Jets as a 17-year-old after we recruited him from New Zealand as a raw talent," Johnson said.
"He got his start here in Ipswich."
The squad Johnson has provided has one of the best backlines the game has to offer and could be a premiership winner if the forwards fired.
"You wouldn't go far off winning it," Johnson grinned.
WESTERN CORRIDOR TOP 17
(made up of players with substantial links to region)
1. Anthony Milford
2. Antonio Winterstein
3. Kirisome Auva'a
4. Steve Matai
5. Israel Folau
6. Johnathan Thurston
7. Cooper Cronk
8. Joe Ofahengaue
9. Cameron Smith
10. Lama Tasi
11. Caleb Timu
12. Josh Papalii
13. Corey Parker
14. Matt Parcell
15. Billy McConnachie
16. Rod Griffin
17. Junior Sa'u
POSSIBLE SQUAD MEMBERS:
Lagi Setu, Kurtis Lingwoodock, Nathaniel Neale, Lorenzo Ma'afu, Marmin Barba, Luke Page, Luke Keary, Daniel Vidot ,Tautau Moga, Ricky Leutele ,Carlin Anderson Nemani Valekapa, Kurt Capewell, Ash Taylor, Josh Cleeland, Matt Srama, Rod Davies, Shalom Suniula (USA RU), Berrick Barnes, Brett Greinke, William Zillman, Gerard Beale, Chris Sandow, Nathan Friend.