Long Read Interview: Edwin Ipape

Leigh Leopards hooker Edwin Ipape has taken Super League by storm this season.

In his debut year in the top flight, he has become one of the best hookers in the comp and is a key cog in the Leopards attack. His stellar form has earned him a deserved place in this year’s Super League Dream Team. We sat down with the PNG international to discuss his inclusion in the prestigious squad.

“Oh look, it’s unbelievable for myself,” he said on his inclusion. “It’s been a journey, I’ve got here last year and to be in the Dream Team, it’s something that I’ve never thought about.”

He added: “I just came in this year and I thought I’ll have a good year, I’d like to have a consistent year and have a good season starting on from next year.

He also highlighted how the style of play at Leigh has helped him achieve his best performances this year: “just with the brand of footy that we’ve been able to play and to grow under the leadership of Coach Lammy and just the players around me that brought the best out of me. I’m just proud to be in the mix of those boys who have given me the chance to expose myself and expose my talent. I’m just grateful to be here.”

Edwin isn’t the only Leopard in the Dream Team this year, as he joined by four of his teammates. Speaking on the inclusion of Josh Charnley, Tom Amone, John Asiata and Lachlan Lam, Ipape said: “I think credit goes to all the boys who’ve worked hard throughout the year. The results speak for themselves.”

He sighted the efforts of the entire Leigh squad in helping the selected five get into the Dream Team, saying: “We’ve played in some big games earlier this year but without team effort, we wouldn’t be here. They wouldn’t be able to include all those five of us in this Dream Team. They help us to be us. They play their part and we play our part every time we play.”

He added: “I think it’s a great achievement for the club as a whole and everyone should be proud of and of course the boys who are in this dream team should be proud of themselves as well.”

The Leopards had a stellar regular season in Super League, however they had one final test in the ‘Battle of the Borough’ last Friday night. The game had a play-off feel to it already, and Ipape explained the Leopards treated it as such. “We treated it as a playoff game,” he said, “and we knew we had to get ourselves ready and in the mood of playoffs and that’s why at the start of the week we trained at a high intensity, because we knew that the game was going to be high intensity and it felt like that throughout the whole 80 minutes.”

When asked if treating that game as a play-off match, he responded: “Well yeah definitely, with the performance comes confidence and to play in such intensity gives you confidence going into the coming weekend.”

The Leopards now turn their attention to Hull KR, a side they have already met four times this season; however Ipape highlighted they will need to be at their best if they want to win at Craven Park on Friday night. “In saying that your attitude has got to be bang on when it comes to game day and we know that we’ve got to turn up on Friday and put our best performance against Hull KR.”

He added: “To go away and play in their home ground, it’s going to be a big ask for us. They’re very aware that they’re a home team, they love playing in front of their home crowd, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us. We’ll prepare to the best of our ability and see the result, how we go about our business on Friday.”

The Leopards have already made history this season by winning the Challenge Cup, but they now find themselves just three wins from an unprecedented double. Ipape discussed the matter, but was quick to add they are taking it one game at a time in the play-offs. “We’re not looking far ahead,” said Ipape. “We’re taking it week by week and we know that Hull KR is the main focus for us this week and if we can get each week sorted then who knows what’s going to happen at the end of the year.

“We might end up with a double but anything can happen, this competition is very competitive and anything can happen on the game day so we’re just focused on Hull KR at the moment. What we’ve achieved so far in terms of Challenge Cup it’s been incredible, it’s 52 years in the making and it’s been awesome so there’s no complacency now.”

He also highlighted the Leopards weren’t finished just yet: “It’s not like we’re done for the year, there’s nothing like that in our squad. We’re always hungry for success and hungry for improvement and that’s the sort of character that we’ve built within this club. I think now that we’ve got only four games including the final, we really want to be the last team in this competition and that’s where we’re at mentally. Like I said, we’re taking each game at a time.”