With last weekend’s State Championship victory by Ipswich Jets over the Newcastle Knights ending a successful Intrust Super Cup campaign 2015, it’s time to reflect on the highlights and low points of the season just gone.

Three things before getting into the specifics of who did what this season. Having been asked to cover the Intrust Super Cup for NothingButLeague, I have really enjoyed getting to know all of the clubs better throughout the season. Previous involvement would be heading to a handful of games a year, mainly focusing on my favoured sides and checking all the results and ladder each week. But delving into the world of the Intrust Super Cup fans I’ve found there is an unbelievable supporter base out there. They produce websites, podcasts, some even host their own broadcasts of games, and the social media coverage is outstanding. There was barely a game that couldn’t be followed in some form during the season. True fans like everyone here at NothingButLeague, but usually without the reward of the average NRL fan. Except for Ipswich fans.

Secondly, the second tier competitions are usually viewed with a tinge of romance, people looking backwards to a simpler time of beer in a can and a grass hill on a winter afternoon, and the team they supported in the before Broncos era. But without too much bias, I can honestly say that the Intrust Super Cup has been of high quality this season and many of the teams in the top half of the competition would trouble a good deal of the teams in the bottom of the NRL. A “FA Cup” style competition would prove that theory. That quality is great for rugby league as it develops a real pathway for up and coming NRL players. Kane Elgey being the prime example from 2015. If the current Youth competition is somehow mixed with the current Queensland and NSW Cup comps it would be a great result for the players, teams, and code.

Finally, although already mentioned after the Grand Final, the Channel 9 coverage of the Intrust Super Cup has been fantastic. It was great to see the usual call team get their reward on NRL Grand Final day. Although Peter Psaltis was hard-done by not to get a TV gig on the day. In Mat Thompson Channel 9 have a great caller to call upon, and should be the reserve caller next season minimum. Whilst Channel 9 tended not to leave Brisbane often, they certainly shared around the TV time with all the teams, another feather for their coverage.

TRIUMPH: JETS, BLACKHAWKS, HUNTERS SUCCESS STORIES

The highs of the season revolve around the top three. Townsville Blackhawks for winning the minor premiership in their first season of Intrust Super Cup. PNG Hunters electrified and won new fans in their second season on their incredible unbeaten run during the season. The Ipswich Jets who ultimately combined entertainment with success by winning three games en route to claiming a deserved first ever Queensland title.

TRAGEDY: JAMES ACKERMAN AND GRANT GEISS, MAY THEY REST IN PEACE

The well-publicised death of James Ackerman on the field for the Sunshine Coast sent shock waves around the sporting world, and the less publicised but equally sad passing of the Easts Tigers Grant Giess weeks before that gave the Intrust Super Cup more sadness than any competition would have to deal with in generations. Both clubs should be admired for the efforts on and off the field following the tragic events.

TERRIFIC: SIMPLY THE BEST!

GAME OF THE YEAR – REDCLIFFE 28 PNG 28

Redcliffe really turned up and confronted the PNG Hunters who’d been on a huge winning streak, against a side renowned for the “in your face” style. The attack wasn’t bad either and not one person at Dolphin Oval seemed bothered that both sides shared a point.

TV GAME OF THE YEAR – EASTS TIGERS 18 IPSWICH JETS 16

A real classic encounter as the Tigers beat the Ipswich Jets at their own game with some tremendous attack and somehow withstood a Jets fightback to claim a vital victory.

ON FIELD MOMENT OF THE YEAR – Kicking the Kick Return

Ipswich are noted for their unpredictability but even a regular viewer wouldn’t have expected what was coming from the Jets against the Hunters at North Ipswich Reserve. After scoring a length of the field try against the run of play against PNG, the Hunters kicked off to the standard just to the left of the post, an easy catch except in NRL Grand Finals. But whereas every rugby league team on earth would give the standard offload to the prop for a hit up, the Jets players simply ran a few metres then like an old school kicking duel booted the ball back over the heads of the Hunters.

It was then a foot race between the Hunters and the Jets with the poor ball boy trying desperately to get out of the way of the oncoming monsters after picking up the kicking tee. It didn’t end in a try but the handy territory made was an advantage to the Jets and some entertainment for the fans.

OFF THE FIELD MOMENT – Plenty in Port Moresby

The 15,000 strong crowd in Port Moresby who turned out to see the PNG Hunters play the Souths Logan Magpies. It was during an Origin affected NRL round. Unbelievably the crowd for this Intrust Super Cup drew more people than any NRL game that weekend. Whilst a permanent NRL team will never happen due to commercial interests (especially how hard it was to convince anyone to pay for a home final for the deserving Hunters) a smart, savvy NRL team will tap into this resource a couple of times a year. Contenders could come from Sydney teams who would struggle to get 15,000 to a home game.

TEAM OF THE YEAR
1 – Stargroth Amean
2 – Marmin Barba
3 – Donald Malone
4 –  Mosese Pangai
5 – Zac Santo
6 – Patrick Templeman
7 – Israel Eliab
8 – Rod Griffin
9 – Tom Butterfield
10 – Dan Beasley
11 – Billy McConnachie
12 – Willie Minoga
13 – Tyson Cleal

14 – Luke Capewell
15 – Carlin Anderson
16 – Matt Parcell
17 – Linc Port