Club super fan and Cowboys.com.au contributor Kate Cornish speaks to 21-year-old outside back Jordan Lipp about coming back from two shoulder reconstructions, moving from Toowoomba and signing with the team he supported as a kid.
Young Cowboy, Jordan Lipp, may only be 21-years-old, but he has already endured his fair share of setbacks as a young footballer.
The Toowoomba junior believes these setbacks have allowed him to view his career through a different lens, made him more motivated and reminded him to be grateful for every opportunity that comes his way.
No athlete has the same journey on their path to glory, and for Lipp his journey has had moments of both pain and disappointment, but it has also taught him important life-skills like resilience, determination and self-belief. While these are lessons that many athletes will not learn until later in their careers, Lipp has found a way to use the misfortune of back-to-back shoulder reconstructions to his advantage, and says he has come a long way from his first shoulder surgery in 2019.
“I had just finished my first rehabilitation, and then in my very first game back I did my other shoulder. That was really tough, but it was just something I had to go through. I look at it now like a stepping-stone. Both my shoulders are fixed now, and I am ready to go.”
Lipp freely admits that his second shoulder surgery and rehab was rough, especially knowing what was ahead of and he confesses there were times when he questioned if it was all worth it.
“My second shoulder was definitely the hardest. During the first one it was all new to me and I was not sure what to expect, whereas with the second one I knew exactly what I had to do and how long the process was to get back. The second one there were times where I did stop to think, is this worth chasing?”
Lipp credits his family and his close friends as a constant support for him while he was working hard at rehab, during the times he was doing it tough. When he found out that the Cowboys were interested, it was the final motivation he needed to get through his gruelling second round of rehabilitation.
“When it actually got serious, I thought okay, I have this opportunity to move to Townsville, it’s 16 hours away from my friends and family and I don’t know anyone up there, but I looked at it as another challenge. The ultimate goal is to get an NRL contract, and walking in and out of training and seeing the NRL boys, that is where you want to be, and it gives the drive to put the extra effort in.”
A true Queenslander, Lipp lived his first few years in a small town in the Western Downs region called Wandoan before moving to Toowoomba at the age of eight. He remembers his early footy days fondly, playing with the South Toowoomba Tigers and says the mateship cultivated through team sport was an important influence on him.
“It is a cliché, but it was about being with your mates. We had a good group who went to school together and who played footy together. I think having those boys around made it really enjoyable. You never felt like you were on your own. You always had a group of mates whether it be at school or at training and it was a lot of fun.”
Lipp says that he has proudly supported the Cowboys his whole life and the enormity of this opportunity is not lost on him. Like any good Cowboys supporter, Lipp says he favourite players growing up were Matty Bowen and Johnathan Thurston.
Not signing with a manager until he was 18, Lipp says it was not until then that he truly believed that he had what it takes to make it in the NRL, and while his goal is fixed on making his NRL debut, he understands that there is a lot of work ahead of him before that can happen. Being fresh in the NRL system, he has so far enjoyed and been challenged by the hard work of pre-season and hopes to be able to play consistent, injury-free football in the Queensland Cup in 2022.
“Supporting the Cowboys my whole life, it is pretty surreal to potentially one day be able to play for them. To be signed by the team that you have always supported it is very special, and while my ultimate goal is to make my debut, there is work to do before I worry about that.”
It is not hard to see why, despite a horror run with injuries, the Cowboys had their eyes firmly on the 21-year-old. Though growing up Lipp played his younger years at halfback, he is a strong and skillful athlete who has found a home in the centres and his highlights package is exciting to watch. At training he has kept a close eye on some of the more experienced players to keep learning and developing his game.
“It is exciting, you walk in and you see guys who have played 200 games and then you see up-and-comers who have only played 10 games. Each person brings their own attribute to the group. I think learning from the likes of Feldty (Kyle Feldt), Peta Hiku and Val Holmes, who is also learning the centre position, and sharing the same information is really great for my growth as a player and as a person. I am learning off class players.”
Lipp has qualities and skills that on paper should stand him in good stead for a shot at an NRL debut, but it is perhaps the attributes that cannot be measured by numbers or shown in the stats that gives him an advantage over his peers - a deep and now engrained self-belief that he can handle anything the rugby league can throw at him. It has already tried to knock him down twice and he is still standing.