The Mackay Cutters kicked off their Mal Meninga campaign on Saturday afternoon with a local derby win over the Townsville Blackhawks at BB Print Stadium.
After crossing in the first minute through prop Garrett Smith, the home side were never headed as they secured a strong 24-8 victory over their well-fancied northern visitors.
The windy conditions on the day enabled the Cutters to build a healthy lead in the first half and coach Grant Rovelli was proud of his side who remained resolute in defence during the second stanza to hold Townsville out.
"Our defence was excellent in the second half and that was probably a feature of our game on the weekend and that’s something we’ve been working on so it was good to see the boys execute that,” Rovelli said.
After a lean run of results on the field early on in the competition’s history, the club identified the importance of development and producing pathways for their local players.
The Cutters installed junior academies that span the Under 13 to Under 16 age groups and Rovelli believed these have helped players successfully transition through to the Mal Meninga Cup program.
“We’ve got a really strong academy program in Mackay and it’s been running for a couple of years now and I think the success of the last couple of 18s campaigns have been off the back of the foundations that the academy has laid,” he said.
This success has provided a positive example of the pathway a statewide competition like the Mal Meninga Cup can provide; and the Cutters coach believes competitions such as this allow local players to take the next step into elite football.
“It gives us the best chance to be able to support the kids in the local area where they’ve got a clear pathway to the Intrust Super Cup and the NRL,” Rovelli said.
Despite such a strong win on the weekend, Rovelli remains focused on improvement and believes his side needs to work on their discipline coming into this weekend’s clash against the Tigers this Sunday.
“We have probably struggled with our discipline a touch and we gave away too many penalties on the weekend so we need to improve that as a group,” he said.
Their opposition the Tigers will be looking to bounce back following their 40-30 loss against the Capras last week.