Baden Robinson can remember the exact moment he came across rugby league.
He was a five-year-old in Prep at Walkerston State School when the North Queensland Cowboys came to do a school visit.
There were a few players there – he can’t remember who. But he can remember how that little visit put him onto the pathway for his future.
“I answered one of the questions they had and got a footy for it,” Robinson said.
“I remember, I just kicked it around all afternoon and so mum took me up and signed me up at one of the little local clubs – the Walkerston Wanderers.”
Fast forward 14 years and Robinson is now the captain of the Mackay Cutters Hastings Deering Colts team, pushing for his team to make this year’s finals.
He played with Walkerston for 12 years, right through until under 17s and joined the Mackay Cutters Juniors from the age of 13.
The now 19-year-old played two years of Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup with the Cutters and is now in his second year of Colts.
Robinson also attended Mercy College and St Patrick’s College in Mackay, known for its rugby league program.
Away from the field, Robinson works for a real estate firm as a sales associate and has also returned to Walkerston Wanderers to coach a junior team and give back to the community.
He said playing all his rugby league in Mackay and representing his hometown on the field – now as a leader – is something that is significant for him.
“Living here my whole life, I hold it a lot closer to my heart,” Robinson said of playing for the Cutters.
“Becoming a leader has also put into perspective for me how much footy means to this community. We get a good crowd every week and when you go away and play the bigger Brisbane teams, there’s sometimes only a couple hundred watching compared to those that support us.
"You feel like you belong.
“Being a smaller club, we’re really close knit.”
Given Robinson is just 19, he said it was quite a personal shock to be given a leadership role within the Colts.
But, with his sights set firmly on one day playing in the Hostplus Cup with Mackay, it’s also a massive confidence boost for his future prospects with the club.
The former Queensland Under 17 Country forward has watched this year as a number of his Colts teammates have been elevated to Cup at different points throughout the season, including Ethan Sweet, Kobe Bone, Hugh Arthur and Robson Stevens.
It gives him plenty of hope for the future.
“Being a little bit younger, I still have a couple years left, so it was a bit of a shock at the start of the season,” he said.
“But it’s really encouraged me to stand up and have a say with the Cup boys. I feel like I’ve become a lot more relatable to those coming into the Colts pathway as well.
“I was there last year (playing Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup before Hastings Deering Colts).
“It makes me feel valued as a person and like the club want to invest in me and they see me as a person they like on and off the field.
“It encourages me to keep bettering myself to become a better role model.
“Because I’ve come through this pathway, the next goal for me is the Cup squad. A lot of the boys I played with this year and last year are in Cup now, so it makes it a lot more realistic. It motivates you a little bit.
“It’s good to see Cup is not that far away.”
Match: Cutters v Capras
Round 15 -
Venue: Mackay Junior Rugby League Grounds, Mackay
The Cutters’ Colts team currently sit in ninth on the ladder and are a chance of making this year’s finals series.
They’re two points behind the Souths Logan Magpies in eighth so will need to win their final two regular round matches and need Souths Logan to fall short over the coming weeks.
Robinson will have to watch nervously from the sidelines this weekend as the Cutters take on the 11th-placed Central Queensland Capras, after he failed to pass a concussion test on Wednesday.
He said he has a lot of belief in the team and what they can achieve over the next two weeks, even if they are relying on other results.
If they manage to win this week, they also hope to see the likes of Bone back in the line-up for Round 16, with Sweet and Arthur now sidelined with injury.
“We started off really strong and had high hopes for this season,” Robinson said of the Cutters’ Colts season.
“We hit a bit of a rocky patch and now we’ve got our backs up against the wall. We’re relying on other results as well.
“I’m looking for our team to show what we do have to offer this weekend. I know we’re a better team than where we’re positioned on the ladder.
“I’d really like us to show in the last two rounds the team that we can be and that we deserve to be in that top eight.”
Main image: Baden Robinson in action for Mackay. Photo: Marty Strecker/Mackay Cutters