'Best' U20 team's added incentive
AN Ipswich Diggers Under-20s team featuring potential NRL and Queensland Cup stars of the future is preparing to do battle in this weekend's Chairman's Challenge.
The Diggers run out to face arch nemesis Brisbane at 6pm tonight.
They must then back up tomorrow morning at 11am against the might of the Gold Coast.
Traditionally, both the capital and the coast are towers of strength in the colts age group, with the rugby league nurseries producing a long line of professionals.
But Ipswich is holding aces of its own this year.
"This is the best rep team I've ever had,” coach Chris Doyle said.
"It is certainly the most talented.”
Among the promising young prospects adding firepower to the team's arsenal are West End's Ativalu Lisati and Goodna's Codey Hazard.
"Ativalu is an outstanding talent,” Doyle who was employed by the NRL as a coaching mentor for 18 months during 2017 and 2018 said.
"I can understand why NRL clubs are chasing him.
"Codey is a future cup player in my eyes. He reminds me of Josh Cleeland at the same age. He is a very talented footballer.”
Brothers skipper and halfback Luke Peel has been bestowed with the honour of leading Ipswich on-field for the second year running.
Former Ipswich Jets assistant Doyle will also call on Peel to offer direction and creativity.
"Luke is a genuine footballer,” Doyle said.
"He has always been a leader and he was the logical choice. But there are a lot of leaders in this squad.”
At their first training session, Peel reportedly pulled his teammates aside and demanded that they commit wholeheartedly or relinquish their place in the line-up.
The response was unanimous, with players immediately pledging their allegiances to the cause.
Last season, Ipswich disposed of Brisbane but a catastrophic period against the Gold Coast consigned them to runner up.
"A five minute lapse cost us,” Doyle said. "It came back to haunt us.”
This year, given the quality of the Ipswich side, Doyle will not be satisfied unless it emerges victorious.
So confident is the Diggers mentor that he thinks he could have named a second string side that would be up to the task.
"We are well and truly ready to go,” he said.
"We are going down there to win. I will be really disappointed if we don't give this a shake. That's how good this football team is. There are no weaknesses.”
Ipswich possesses two extremely dangerous centres in Lisati and Fiohiva Siale-Faingaa, and Doyle will look to exploit their talents.
"These boys are monsters,” he said.
"If we can get the ball to these fellas there should be value in it. So we'll be playing a bit wider of the ruck and getting the ball to the fringes.”
Having coached Norths colts in the past, Doyle is no stranger to managing young men and he sees the Diggers gig as an opportunity to work with the region's best.
"It makes life easy having 20 genuine rugby league footballers,” he said.
"It brings out the best in your coaching.”
Doyle echoed the thoughts of A-Grade coach Scott Ireland in calling for the concept to be developed further.
He called for the Under-20s squad to be announced prior to Christmas to allow it sufficient time to prepare.
"Going into a carnival this strong with just three weeks training is really hard,” he said.
"You really are just relying on pure ability.”
Ultimately, the Diggers will be hoping their individual abilities are enough to get them noticed by South-east Queensland selectors.
Doyle said four exceptional performers ascended to an SEQ jersey in 2018 and they had all gone onto play at a higher level.
"I have no doubt that these players will all come back better footballers after this campaign,” he said.
"They will know they are rep players. They will have a level of maturity and set a good example for others.”