Ricky proud to celebrate Ipswich’s fantastic achievements
HAVING put his hand up early to play, popular footballer Ricky Bird is eagerly awaiting today's Ipswich Indigenous All Stars encounter.
The former Ipswich Jets half was among the first players to accept when the call went out to line up against the Ipswich All Stars at the North Ipswich Reserve.
"It's for a good cause so I said I'd get out on the paddock and have a bit of a gallop around,'' Bird said.
Just allow the respected footballer some time off after the hotly anticipated showdown.
Bird, who turns 44 in two weeks, last played for a memorial team in an Indigenous carnival two years ago.
"I had a run around there. It took me about six weeks to recover,'' he said, with a laugh.
However, he has maintained some good condition leading up to today's match.
"I'm always pretty fit,'' Bird said, having represented the Ipswich Jets from 2000-07.
"I train every day. It's just that physical aspect of playing a footy game I guess.
"It's all right when you're out there playing. It's just after the game.''
The Tuesday night planned training session was called off due to the storm and unavailability of some of the players. However, Bird reunited with some former Jets players when the team had a run on Thursday night.
The Indigenous and Ipswich All Stars players also enjoyed last night's gala dinner at the North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre where they signed their jerseys to be auctioned.
Bird appreciates the role of Indigenous footballers being recognised this weekend.
"Especially in the Ipswich region, over the years there's been a lot of great players that have come through in the local comp as well as in the Jets teams,'' he said.
"To celebrate those achievements of the past and also the present players that are running around in the comp, it's always a great honour to do that.''
Bird played 118 games for the Jets, scoring 64 tries, 23 goals and one field for 303 points.
The 2005 Qantas player of the year remains in the top echelon of club contributors.
Among his former teammates playing on Saturday are Donald Malone, Steven West and Lee Coghill.
He especially enjoyed linking with West who played on the wing.
The final teams for today's 5.50pm match.
Ipswich All Stars: 1. Ratu Vatuinaruku, 2. Anava Fesolai, 3. Nemani Velekapa, 4. Tonga Mo'unga, 5. Sam Langbien, 6. Traveindra Naidu, 7. Isi Hafoka, 8. Elijah Umu, 9. Michael Hayes, 10. Zac Lemberg, 11. Ramon Filipine, 12. Jacob Lindsey, 13. Jack Wallace, 14. John Schawalger, 15. Jake Casey, 16. Dylan Martin, 17.Alby Talipeau, 18. Jake O'Doherty, 19. David Faamita, 20. Michael Rasmussen, 21. Regan Wilde.
Indigenous All Stars: 1. Wes Conlon, 2. Rendy Mam, 3. Donald Malone, 4. Willie Tonga, 5. Bernard Mosby, 6. Ricky Bird, 7. Cameron Picker, 8. Billy McConnachie, 9.Steven West, 10. Kurtis Lingwoodock, 11. Harold Mosby, 12. Nathan Gaulton, 13. Phil Dennis, 14. Ritchie Lowe, 15. Lamiki Wraight, 16. Daniel West-Pas, 17. Kyle Blackman, 18. Ty Marshall, 19. Brendon Marshall, 20. Braydon Grogan.
The best and fairest player from each team today will receive the inaugural Wayne Finch (from the Ipswich All Stars side) and Dean Daylight (Indigenous All Stars side) medals.
Former international footballer Willie Tonga provided some valuable insights about his career at last night's function, reflecting on past highs and lows and encouraging players to help their mates if they are struggling.
MC Chris Bombolas gained valuable insights from coaches Ian Lacey and Scott Ireland and also showcased a sense of the game's importance from respective captains Kurtis Lingwoodock (Indigenous All Stars) and Zac Lemberg (Ipswich All Stars).
The common themes were passion for the game, respect, camaraderie and pride in the jersey.
It is hoped today's inaugural game becomes a regular fixture on the Ipswich football calendar.
It was clear the past and present players enjoyed a social get-together at the North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre.
Rugby League Ipswich chairman Gary Parker played a leading role in organising the night after the concept was hatched by former players Corey Kirk and Craig Wehrmann.
The Jets were also involved in the function, with head coach Keiron Lander providing a lively chat about the value of the game, mateship and how much he enjoys being involved with Ipswich.
In an earlier chat, Bird revealed he pondered returning in the 2008 season after sharing in the Jets 2007 preliminary final loss under coach Kevin Walters.
"The disappointment of losing that last game before the grand final hit home and you retire sort of on impulse,'' he said.
"I remember in the off-season and the pre-season, the players were umming and ahing about coming back.
"I did have a quick chat with Kevvie about coming back but I decided not to.
"Unfortunately I think the boys went on to lose in the grand final that year.''
They did. The Jets went down 24-18 to Souths Logan after a tremendous season.
While he only commits to a handful of games these days, Bird continues to support the Indigenous community through the highly regarded Deadly Choices program.
He has teamed up with Indigenous coach Ian Lacey and current Jets mentor Keiron Lander.
"He's a real good fella, the work he's doing,'' Bird said of Lacey. "And Keiron Lander as well.
"I'm with Deadly Choices as well . . . for our people in the community. We give them the education around a healthy lifestyle.''
The Indigenous-Ipswich All Stars match will follow an under-21 trial at 4pm between the Ipswich Jets and Western Mustangs.
The Indigenous jerseys will be auctioned off after the All Stars game.
GALA DAY PROGRAM
Game times for Saturday
4pm: Under 21 trial - Ipswich Jets v Western Mustangs
5.35pm: Welcome to the country, smoking ceremony and tribal dances
5.50pm: Ipswich Indigenous All-Stars v Ipswich All-Stars
7.30pm: Players jerseys auctioned in front of grandstand.
Gates open at 3.45pm (admission $10).