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Mackay legend hoping to prove they're still 'still strong and kicking'

Jardine Bobongie has achieved almost everything in Mackay colours.

From winning local league grand final wins during his junior years to Foley Shields and captaining the Mackay Cutters to their maiden Intrust Super Cup premiership in 2013 - the proud South Sea Islander has a trophy cabinet full of silverware.

But one thing the hard-hitting back-rower doesn't have yet is a XXXX League Championship title and he is hoping a victory against the Toowoomba Clydesdales in Saturday's do-or-die semi-final will show the world the sugar capital is still a force to be wary of.

"It would be good for me because it won’t just be another win for me, but one for the community to show Mackay Rugby League is still strong and kicking," the Mackay and District captain said.

Qualifying for the inaugural clash after claiming back-to-back North Queensland titles in Townsville last month, the Cutters have been forced to change their Foley Shield-winning line-up due to injury; however, the misfortune gives the opportunity to a number of players who have been playing well in the local A Grade competition.

Mackay in action against Cairns at the Foley Shield. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL
Mackay in action against Cairns at the Foley Shield. Photo: Cameron Stallard/QRL

"Yeah, there have been a few injuries. There were a few injuries out of the games in Townsville and also a few in the last couple of weeks playing local league so the team has changed a bit," Bobongie said.

"But in saying that, there are boys that have come to the squad who have been playing local league. Obviously Benny and Marmin Barba [are two of the biggest inclusions].

"We’re looking pretty good. We had a training run on Wednesday night and it was good to get all the boys together and we have another one today, our captain’s run before the game."

The inclusion of the experienced Barba brothers is particularly special for the journeyman given how much footy he has played with the family growing up in and around Mackay.

Marmin Barba in action for the Ipswich Jets.
Marmin Barba in action for the Ipswich Jets.

"It's good for me. I've been playing with these two boys since they were both young and I’ve played with all the [Barba] brothers in indigenous carnivals up in Townsville and Cairns," Bobongie said.

"For me, it’s just another opportunity to play football with these boys again and it’s good for these two boys to play football again... for them to come back to Mackay and play in front of their family for the first time in probably a while, it will be great for them.

"Marmin did move back a few years ago and we all played at Magpies together so everyone knows how he plays and Ben’s name speaks for himself in the way he plays football."

The inclusion of the handy backs adds speed to the side, but the Mackay pack leader said the focus would still be on defence - much like what coach Steve Jackson spoke about after the Foley Shield win.

'They defended their hearts out' - Jackson

"When you do play these games, I think at the end of the day you get picked for the football you play and at this level, everyone knows how to play rugby league," Bobongie said.

"The thing that gets you over the line is your defence. You can attack as you want, but if you can’t defend it, they’re going to score tries so we really focused on that.

"At the games in Townsville, we spoke about that if we focus on defence, we’ll be right. We all can play football, so we trained on that first before doing anything else.

"Obviously that showed in that low scoring game against Townsville and then against Cairns, it was tight in the first half but then we ended up running away with it. It was good."

Upon taking a glance at the opposition, Bobongie is expecting a brutal battle from the Central Queensland representatives.

Jardine Bobongie represented the Queensland Rangers in 2015.
Jardine Bobongie represented the Queensland Rangers in 2015.

"I haven’t looked that far ahead, but speaking to one of the boys from here that’s played here for a few years – he knows a few of the boys and they’re all pretty tough fellas. I sort of put my head down and think… I’m not ready for this," Bobongie joked.

"But playing local league, you get to these rep games and know they’re always going to be tough games.

"They won the 47th Battalion and I’ve heard stories from the game between them and Sunny Coast and the 20-16 scoreline showed it was a really tough game.

"I’ve got a few mates who play in Bundy and in the Central Queensland area and they said they have a pretty tough team."

A big crowd is expected at BB Print Stadium to cheer on the home side and Bobongie said this time round, the community was rallying behind their local team.

"No one had really looked into it too much [when we went to Townsville]," the Cutters captain said.

"We've won [the Foley Shield] the last two times and I think we surprised everyone this year when we won it.

"It was actually good because we had no pressure on us because no one expected us to do anything and we ended up beating Townsville and the next day went on to beat Cairns.

"I think everyone has seen that and hopefully the whole community and our family and friends will get down and support us.

"It's also a big honour for me because it’s another rep game and playing at the stadium again, it’s fairly special."

Mackay and District Cutters v Toowoomba Clydesdales

He also said it would be very special to represent his home region at the XXXX League Championship state final on July 24 in Brisbane should they defeat Toowoomba.

"I’ve been playing with these boys and against these boys over the last couple of years in Mackay and all these boys are picked from all the clubs in Mackay," Bobongie said.

"It’s not like the old days where the clubs didn’t get along. We all have a chat, catch up and have a beer after the game.

"It'll be pretty special if we can get the win for Mackay and head down to Brisbane to represent our region."

The match kicks off on Saturday, June 19, at 7.30pm and will be broadcast live and free on QRL.com.au and the QRL Facebook page.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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