Ipswich Jets have paid a big price for their 2015 on field success with no fewer than eight players moving on from the dual Championship winning side.
Six of those players have been lucky to earn NRL contracts, captain Keiron Lander has retired and just this week the eighth player to move on was Marmin Barba announcing he was looking to represent Australia at the Rugby Sevens.
With the lure of an Olympics coming up in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, who could blame the Darwin born Ipswich Jets flyer for changing codes. Especially since his speed, skills and all round heroics in the Intrust Super Cup over the last two seasons haven’t yet got him any closer to a full time NRL deal. His 52 tries in two seasons should surely have been a big enough number to convince someone to give him a decent crack at the NRL.
His skills and speed should match Sevens rugby well. The decision to leave rugby league will be fully justified if a gold medal hangs around his neck in August 2016. The move won’t also rule him out on a return to rugby league after either. A great performance may see him even get to the NRL faster than he would continuing to ply his trade in the Intrust Super Cup.
But in the meantime it will be Ipswich’s and Intrust Super Cup fans in general loss.
Barba’s departure is another hurdle for the Ipswich side heading into 2016. It will be a real test of the Walker Brothers coaching and management skills to see if they can not only keep their different style of rugby league going (which captured the imagination of so many in 2015) but doing it with a squad that has had most of the star players from the most recent season taken from them. If they continue to play their different style and do it successfully, the brotherly combination will surely be next in line for the next NRL coaching gig. If they aren’t already.
Marmin Barba is not the first to leave the Jets after their successful 2015 season, six others have been given a chance to shine in the NRL in 2016.
The Ipswich hooker was the first to leave the Jets with a Manly contract in his back pocket before the season has finished. His handful of performances for the Broncos in 2015 should show he’ll be up for the rise in class in 2016. Combined with his Intrust Super Cup form should have Manly fans rubbing their hands at the potential. Having scored five tries in one game in the final series just to underline his potential value for Manly in 2016.
The PNG International was a real workhorse for the Jets in 2015 and his hard work has been rewarded with a one year contract at the Wests Tigers where he had previously gone through the junior ranks in 2006. After playing for the Northern Pride and Tweed Heads Seagulls, his heroic performances in 2015 for Ipswich, especially in the two finals, has seen him be given a chance at NRL with the Wests Tigers. With the reduced interchange in effect from next season, a potential eighty minute player will be of even greater value in 2016.
The interchange forward was a player of real impact and quality for the Jets, but came to the forefront of rugby league fans attention with his man of the match performance in the Intrust Super Cup win over Townsville when Ipswich were several players down. He has also been given a chance to shine at the Wests Tigers in 2016 and will no doubt be keen to prove his NRL credentials and be remembered for his contribution to rugby league in 2016 rather than knocking out Jake Mamo in the State Championship final.
The Ipswich fullback excited many times throughout 2015 and was a vital part of the attacking juggernaut that was the Ipswich back line in 2015. He has got himself a Broncos deal for 2016, and with the retirement of Justin Hodges may just find himself playing in the NRL next year. Bonus for Ipswich is if he doesn’t make it straight away, they will more than likely get his services back.
The headgear wearing five eighth was an integral part of the Ipswich success in 2015 and has been rewarded with a one year deal with the Cronulla Sharks for 2016. Chris Walker compared him to the likes of Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler after his deal was announced so impressed he has been with his instincts for the game. A shame the Sharks have recruited James Maloney from the Roosters which will mean chances will be limited at the Sharks in 2016.
The last of the six to be announced as an NRL graduate in 2016 will join Cleeland at the Sharks next season. A former centre turned second rower, his versatility may see him get more chances at the Sharks in 2016 than his Ipswich teammate might get in the NRL. His brother Liam will continue for the Jets next season, whilst his other brother is former Broncos, Souths and Gold Coast player Luke.