Mackay Cutters coach Michael Crawley is two days away from watching his side run out for their first game of the year, and the experienced coach is excited to see what new season will bring.
“We’re hoping to put our best foot forward,” Crawley said.
“We’re trying to be a team that puts in a good performance each week that the local community can be proud of and will come to see.
“In the past, the club has recruited players that are more in the back end of their career, but we’re taking it in a different sort of direction this year as I brought a lot of young talent in... I think the oldest player I recruited was 22.
“It’s a very keen, enthusiastic squad, but we need to make sure we’re playing a game plan where we’re looking after the footy as well.”
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One of the most notable signings has been 22-year old former Tonga, Canberra Raiders and New Zealand Warriors halfback Mafoa'aeata “Ata” Hingano.
“I worked a lot with Ata at Canberra,” Crawley said.
“He’s a 22-year-old guy who’s played international football and plenty of first grade.
“His goal is to make it into the NRL and my job here is to give him every opportunity to do that.
“He’s been training very hard, and as a half he’s obviously very important to us and hopefully he has a very strong season and we can be a stepping stone for him to get back into the NRL.
“He’s someone for our younger guys to learn from, they can watch how he prepares for football and he can pass on his knowledge.”
Making his NRL debut as a 19-year old for the Warriors, Hingano played 15 NRL games for the Warriors and 17 games for the Raiders.
A key player to join Hingano at the club this season is winger Elijah Anderson, who has spent the pre-season training with the North Queensland Cowboys.
“He’s a fit, young guy and very strong,” Crawley said of the former Central Queensland Capra.
“The Cowboys said he was the strongest player they’ve seen since JT (Jason Taumalolo).
“He’s quite a physical specimen, he played a full year at the Capras last year as a 20-year-old, so he’s still very young, but we’re looking forward to him enjoying his first season at the Cutters.”
Match: Cutters v Devils
Round 1 -
Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay
Another young talent who has been named to make his debut for the club this weekend in their match against Norths Devils is Michael Molo who will face off against his old club.
“We signed him early on, but he came up in January, his fitness wasn’t perfect when he turned up, but he’s worked really hard to get himself into good shape for Round 1,” Crawley said.
“He’ll be excited coming up against a few of his mates at his old club.”
Mackay Cutters gains and losses
Ata Hingano (Canberra Raiders), Luke Polselli (Newtown Jets), Joshua Tuilagi (Cronulla Sharks), Zev John (Redcliffe Dolphins), Elijah Anderson (Central Queensland Capras), Michael Molo (Norths Devils), Luke Dolbel (Wyong)
Brenden Treston (retired), Luke Schulte (retired), Lloyd White (Toulouse Olympique France), Alex Gerrard (Widnes, UK), Kellen Jenner (local league), Sam Cooke (local league), Sam Johnstone (local league), Marcus Jensen, Jack Hickson (East Tigers), Jordon Kenworthy (work commitments)