Injured Jacks leading charge for Falcons in finals
RUGBY LEAGUE: Sunshine Coast coach Craig Ingebrigtsen has lauded the courage of ball player Ryley Jacks, ahead of the side's state league preliminary final against Redcliffe on Sunday.
By rights, the 24-year-old linchpin shouldn't even be lacing up for the club's biggest game since 2010.
Amid a team of gutsy players battling injuries, he's battled a nasty foot injury but still emerged as a key man for the team during its fairytale run deep into the playoffs.
"Jacks and (halves partner Alex) Bishop have been real leaders for us,” Ingebrigtsen said.
"Jacks shouldn't even be playing. He's got turf toe, the most painful injury you can have.”
"Just the way he's risen to the task is way and above what he needs to do and I'm just really proud of what he's done.”
Jacks left the field during the team's stunning elimination final win over the Hunters in Papua New Guinea two starts ago and was not expected to lace up for its minor semi-final against the Blackhawks in Townsville last weekend.
But not only did he play, he starred, like he has for most of the season.
Another man in the line-up battling injury is forward Tom Murphy. He's been staving off shoulder surgery all season and last weekend failed to take the field.
But he's set to return to hooker for Sunday's match against the Dolphins at Redcliffe (2.30pm)
Teenage rake Sam Burns, who produced an eye-catching 80-minute performance in his state league debut last weekend, has been named on the bench while Callum Klein returns to the line-up to replace winger Tony Tumasa (hamstring).
Influential rake Nafe Seluini is a slight chance of returning from a lengthy injury layoff but Ingebrigtsen said they are unlikely to risk him, with a grand final in sight.
That the Falcons are in the preliminary final is astonishing in itself.
The team has struggled for several seasons and its supporters were elated to earn a berth in the six-team finals series this time around.
Now, the Falcons have had a fairytale run through the finals, overcoming two of the toughest road trips, to be 160 minutes away from a premiership.
"They've done the job the last couple of weeks and I see no reason why they can't do it again,” the coach said.
The side is set to include six Melbourne Storm players but they won't join the team until game day.