THE Absolute Enterprises Mackay Cutters will go into this weekend’s final trial against the Pride boosted by the inclusion of some familiar faces.
One of 2013’s standout performers, Liam Taylor, will pull on the boots for the first time in 2014 after undergoing minor knee surgery prior to Christmas.
After a breakout season in 2013, Taylor will carry the added responsibility of being a vital part of the team’s leadership group after being named vice captain last week. In 2013, Taylor broke the club’s all time points record and also joined a select group of players to have played 50 games for the Cutters.
“I am looking forward to getting back in to it. I really enjoyed the break and got well away from footy for a while. After the clean up with my knee I am now feeling refreshed and can’t wait for the challenges of 2014,” Taylor said.
“The competition was so close last year but I expect it to be even closer this year. Earning a spot in the top five will be a big challenge for our group but we are well prepared and still have the confidence on the back of last year.”
Saturday’s game in Townsville will give Cutters fans little insight in to the make-up of the side for round one. Head Coach Kim Williams was playing his cards close to his chest but he did indicate that the squad would be trimmed later in the week and would include several players that would be very much in contention for the Grand Final replay against the Easts Tigers in Round 1.
“It is a trial game but it is all about building towards the competition proper. We are still going to try some different combinations and there will always be competition for spots within this squad. We have a few Cowboys back this week as well so that makes it even more competitive,” Williams said.
Of the Cowboys included, young halfback Doug Hewitt will join his new teammates for the first time. Following the match he will relocate to Mackay to be full time with the Cutters squad. Cowboys Head Coach Paul Green was full of praise for Hewitt going on record to say that he could earn a recall to the Cowboys during the Origin period.
The Woollam Construction junior teams will also travel to Townsville this weekend as they round out preparations for their respective competitions.
Both sides performed credibly on the weekend but coaching staff will look for continued improvement if the sides are to be competitive in the elite state-wide competitions.
Under 18 Head Coach Michael Nieslen was pleased with his team’s performance against an older opposition on the weekend.
“The Mackay 19’s might have been an invitational side but many of the players were part of the Cutters system the previous year so they had played a bit together,” Nielsen said.
“My side has certainly got me thinking. There were a few players that really stood up and with another strong performance this weekend will see them selected for round one. I will always reward those guys that are performing consistently well in training and games.”
Cutters squad v Pride
Liam Taylor, Chris Ulugia, Josh Benjamin, Michael Koko, Aaron Fairweather, Dan Murphy, Tom Rouse, Sam Hoare, Dave Petersen, Karl Davies, Dean Webster, Chris Gesch, Jason Schirnack, Doug Hewitt, Aleki Falipaini, Ashton Sims, Hayden Crockett, Glenn Hall, John Asiata, Dan Beasley, Mitch Day, James Uhatafe, Justin Tavae, Ryan Kinleyside, Rohan Ahern, Pulou Vaituutuu