Grafton Ghosts' sign boom recruit
IT took Leighton Ireland just one match as a spectator to want to pull on the blue and white jersey for the Grafton Ghosts.
The Grafton-born but Brisbane-based player was watching the Ghosts clash with Mullumbimby in round four after being invited by family down to the region for the weekend. The style of play sparked his interest in strapping on the boots.
"I liked what I saw at the game," the Ghosts newest signing said.
"I was watching the game more as a player than a spectator and thought it was an intense match.
"You could see the way the boys were enjoying the style and it was something I wanted to be part of."
The Ghosts spent little time signing him and considering his resume, they would have been mad not to.
Ireland spent his early career playing rugby league near Gladstone before making the switch to rugby union at age 15.
In his first year in Rah-Rahs as a 116kg prop, he represented Central Queensland in Under-16s and Under-21s, Queensland Country in Under-21s and the Queensland Reds Under-16 squad.
A year later and with a scholarship under his belt to attend Toowoomba Grammar School, Ireland represented his school in a three month United Kingdom tour where he also played briefly with Northampton's Under-21 squad.
He spent a stint with Sunnybank Rugby Union club before making the switch back to rugby league for the Burleigh Bears first grade squad before again returning to rugby with the Queensland Reds' feeder club, University of Queensland.
Coach Col Speed implemented a conditioning program to help fast track Ireland into first grade.
"We will assess him this weekend in reserve grade and monitor his progress over the next couple of weeks," Speed said.
"He is definitely part of our first grade squad.
"I am impressed with his athletic development and capabilities."
The welder at McSwan Engineering, who has been to training several times said he couldn't wait to get onto the field for first grade.
"I am impressed with the professionalism of the club and the culture of the club," he said.
"The one thing that really got me was the crowd at the match.
"Rugby league, to Ghosts fans, is almost a religion."