AFTER eight years on the National Rugby League treadmill, Jamie Russo is back home on the Sunshine Coast. He's also stamping his class on the Queensland Cup with the Pepsi Dolphins. The 24-year-old utility joined Redcliffe soon after the 2005 season started, but did not take long to make an impression. After one match in A grade, he forced his way into the Premier League set-up and has not been away since. "I came home to live at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast to take it easy and get away from Sydney for a year," Russo said. "I still wanted to play football but I knew I needed a higher level than the Sunshine Coast comp. "I approached Redcliffe and soon spoke to coach Anthony Griffin, whom I knew after he coached my brother Michael at Norths." Russo finds himself in the forwards at Redcliffe, although he has played a lot of five-eighth. "I played in the centres at Canberra last year, although I prefer lock or second-row," he said. "I didn't know what to expect as I have been at NRL clubs since I was a teenager, but the set-up at Redcliffe is good." At 98 kilograms, he is well built to take care of himself, although he knows competition in the Dolphins backrow is red-hot, especially with firebrand Daniel Green back from his off-season shoulder operation. Russo makes no secret of the fact that he wants to return to the NRL next season, but for now is content to bide his time in the nation's second-best competition. He joined the Sydney Roosters virtually from school in 1997 before linking with Parramatta in 2002 ,then skipping to Souths for 2003 and 2004, although he spent the second half of last year at the Canberra Raiders. "I was going to be at Canberra this year again when I decided to come home to the Sunshine Coast," he said. "They were pretty good to give me a release." Russo gained an early insight of Redcliffe's potential at the Raiders from friend Adam Mogg (another former Sunshine Coast product) and winger Phil Graham. "I've known Moggy a while and we were also together at Parramatta," he said. "He was always going on that I would be playing at Redcliffe and that's what has happened. "Adam is well regarded at Canberra and has signed on again for them, but he says he will finish up his career with the Dolphins. "Phil Graham spent a bit of time in reserve grade last year, but he's back fit again and has a ton of pace. He's very quick." Russo has been quick to make an assessment of the Queensland Cup. "It's a pretty good comp, but a completely different game to the NRL and NSW Premier League,'' he said. "The fitness levels are not as high, but that is to be expected as the players are not fulltime and some of the little things are not as well executed. "But it's certainly as physical as the other comps and the games I've played against Souths and Wynnum have been tough. I was hoping to celebrate on the Saturday after the North Queensland Young Guns game as that was my birthday, but I've never won in Townsville in any visit there with an NRL club. "Any clubs with NRL feeders can be expected to be hard clashes, so that takes in Norths, Toowoomba and North Queensland."Like
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