The way in which Mackay lost last year’s XXXX League Championship semi-final was "heartbreaking".
With just two minutes left on the clock, Mackay – the 2021 Foley Shield champions and Northern representative team – was leading 24-22 over Toowoomba, when the Central Queensland representatives took an intercept and ran nearly the entire length of the field to snatch the win.
Toowoomba went on to take on Brisbane in the XXXX League Championship state final, but the memories remained for Mackay.
As Queensland Rugby League North region manager Renae Kunst said earlier this year, it still burns deeply.
For Mackay coach Steve Jackson, it's a game that should serve as a tool.
"I’ll never forget it," Jackson said of the semi-final, ahead of this year's Foley Shield.
"People have said to me, 'let it go, Jacko, let it go'.
"As a football player and a football coach, you don’t let those losses go. You use them as motivation for your next game."
And, as a result, this Saturday, June 18, it will be the Matt Bowen and Roy Baira-coached Townsville team that will go into the 2022 XXXX League Championship semi-final to face their Central counterparts, the Rocky Rustlers.
And while they won’t carry Mackay’s pain from last year into this semi-final, Jackson's advice on using that loss as motivation remains.
There is definitely a desire for Townsville to go one better and to show the rest of the state how strong the North can be.
QRL state strategy manager and former North region manager, Scott Nosworthy, said Townsville would want to do their area proud.
“What happened last year, it is heartbreaking when you know the people that are behind the team, the coach, the coaching staff, a lot of players,” Nosworthy said.
“They’ve given up their time to come through and play in the Championships and giving up time is money for some of them.
“Mackay did a fantastic job last year to stop their local league, get everyone in and watching the game, and to lose on the bell is heartbreaking.
“I’m a very proud north Queenslander and I just like it when our teams go well because of the challenges we have to participate in rugby league. It would be the same for the Rockhampton team this year.
“The fact Mackay came so close last year and there was very little between Mackay and Townsville in the Foley Shield, that has given Townsville extra incentive to do it right and go that extra step this year.”
Nosworthy said what Mackay and Townsville had in common was how much they have both given to the Foley Shield and state championship concept.
With Bowen and Baira at the helm and a number of big names in the team, such as Edene Gebbie, Carlin Anderson and Sione Louisi, Nosworthy said northern rugby league fans could count on the fact Townsville had given this competition their all.
“The important thing is that your league buys into it,” Nosworthy said.
“Mackay really bought into it last year and Townsville are the same.
“Townsville has gone away and really put in a massive effort and concentrated on winning this year’s Foley Shield, which they did. That team has pretty much stuck.
“They’re going to roll out a team on Saturday that is full of state league and NRL experience. There’s also some very, very good local league players.
“That buy in from the league and that want to go further will be important.”
This year’s semi-final will be played between Townsville and Rockhampton – who claimed their first 47th Battalion victory in May – at Rockhampton’s Browne Park from 6pm on Saturday.
Main image: The changing of the guard as Mackay and Townsville shake hands following this year's Foley Shield. Photo: Scott Radford-Chisholm/QRL