The footballing gods smiled on the National Rugby League this week. The first ever all-Queensland grand final. The decider’s greatest ever finish. North Queensland Cowboys’ inaugural premiership. Ipswich Jets won the NRL State Championship. Yes Ipswich Jets. A win for the ages, and they’d been waiting 105 years.
The city west of Brisbane that spawned legendary Little Allan Langer remarkably hadn’t won a senior rugby league premiership since 1910. Coached by brothers Ben and Shane Walker, Ipswich was a small team with an unbelievably innovative style. Cross field runs. Short kick-offs and drop-outs. It’s about speed and tiring out big opposition forwards. Everything funky and unfashionable.
The previous week the Jets won the Queensland Cup. This week they beat New South Wales Cup victors Newcastle Knights to also claim the second tier National title. The Walker brothers selected another sibling, former State of Origin winger Chris, despite him having done his knee the week before. They sent him on with 8 minutes to go so that he could win a premiership in Sydney in his last match. The Walkers had applied for the vacant Newcastle NRL coaching job earlier this year and not even been granted an interview. The victory was sweet indeed.
Football’s glory years in Ipswich were back in the 19th century. In 1880-1892 Ipswich was Queensland’s Champions of the Colony perhaps 8 times. The team played a game more akin to Australian Rules but later changed to playing Rugby. Since then only the very dawn of the Queensland Amateur Rugby Football League in 1910 delivered league success. Until now.
The first Ipswich Football Club was founded in 1870. Silas Harding was one of those in that foundation team. He became a surveyor for the Mines and Lands departments, appropriate for a mining town like Ipswich. He’d be grinning with what football in his town has achieved, even if it did happen 164 years after his birth.
Ipswich was once a prime candidate to be the capital of Queensland. Today it’s champion of Queensland and Australia. And the footballing gods are smiling.