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Mackay Cutters: Cup gains and losses for 2024

For talented outside back Mahe Fonua, playing Hostplus Cup for Mackay Cutters is just what he and his family needed.

Having played NRL with Melbourne Storm and Wests Tigers, and with Hull FC in the Super League, Fonua was looking to move back to Australia to be closer to family and friends.

He said it was important to support his wife Christine and their four children, aged six, four, two and one.

The 31-year-old reached out to Cutters CEO Mitch Cook and head of football Kim Williams, who he knew from his time at Storm.

“My family moved home this time last year, I knew it was going to be my last season in England, so I put the feelers out and got in touch with Kim and he said there was an opportunity to come back and play some footy and make the transition into life after footy as well,” Fonua said, adding he was “grateful and blessed” for the opportunity at Cutters.

Fonua started his rugby league journey at South Eastern Titans in Melbourne and went to Canberra for a bit before becoming the first Victorian born and raised player to play for the Storm at NRL level.

“That’s where I first knew Kim Williams and that’s how my NRL career blossomed at Melbourne,” Fonua said.

“Did five years there, at Storm, before moving over to England for two years and was lucky enough to be part of a successful team (in Hull FC), getting some silverware over there before coming back in 2018 and 2019, to Wests Tigers, where injury got the best of me both years,” Fonua said.

Fonua playing for Tigers in 2018. Photo: NRL Imagery
Fonua playing for Tigers in 2018. Photo: NRL Imagery

“Then for the last four years I have been in England before returning back here to Australia, to Mackay.”

Fonua said the catalyst for moving home was his family.

“The main reason we moved back the first time to the Tigers was because we had our firstborn child, our daughter, and I wanted to come back and be around family in Australia,” Fonua said.

“Then we went back to England… had another two kids over there… my missus has sacrificed a lot… moving across the world twice and raising all of our kids pretty much on her own with no real support when we went over there.

“It was time to give back to my family, to my kids and my wife… that was the major factor in coming back home… I was hoping to continue playing footy over here at whatever level, and slowly make the transition into the real world, the working world.”

Fonua said he had been fortunate enough to play at the top level for 12-odd years and it was time to “hang up the boots from fulltime footy but still play at a good level in Cup”.

The Tongan international said Mackay was a bit different to Melbourne – and England - but he was loving it.

“Bit hotter than Melbourne and England,” he laughed.

“It’s a lot smaller than Melbourne and even where we were living in England… I think it’s the time in my life, with how old that kids are… they’re real young… I think Mackay’s a good town.

“We’re able to spend more time with each other and I can be around my kids and watch them grow… it’s a real sporty town, there’s lot of sports… I drive around and the netball courts are across the road from the soccer fields which is across the road from the junior rugby league pitches.

“I can’t wait to get my kids involved in sport. It’s such a good town for young families to raise their kids and that’s why me and the missus don’t mind it up here.”

Fonua said he was impressed with the Cutters squad and was pumped for their season to start this weekend.

“I don't want to sound cliche or anything but… everyone comes through their pre-season, talking about how confident they are and everyone has 10 goals and that, but we've got a young squad bar me and Kenny Edwards… our average age is probably 23 to 24, and you’ve got two older heads in me and Kenny that are over 30… we’ve got a good foundation of players to be able to hold our own even when we don’t get any allocations back from the Cowboys,” Fonua said.

“Our squad alone is good… we’ve got some good depth and when we get allocations from the Cowboys it only strengthens up our squad.

“I'm really looking forward to our first game this weekend and lacing up the boots with these other debutants.

“As I’m getting older, I just want to be able to have my body in the best shape that I can, to be able to take the field as much as I can.

“There’s heaps of young players in this team and I want be able to share my footy knowledge, be a leader out on the paddock. Show that the old bull's still got a few runs in him. I just want to be playing consistent footy.”

Fonua said a lot of family and friends had asked if he still had ambitions to play in the NRL, but his focus was on repaying the Cutters for bringing him home.

“To be fair I’ve had my time in the NRL and I’m happy to go hard for this club, for the Cutters,” Fonua said.

“In saying that, if there was a club that had a couple of outside back injuries and wanted to strengthen up their depth, I’d take it because I would never say no to an opportunity but that’s not my ambition at the moment.

“I’m at a different stage of my career than what some young people are… for me it’s all about being on the field each week and being able to repay this club for bringing me back home.

“And knowing I can still keep up with these young boys coming through the ranks… show them a thing or two."

Fonua said outside of footy he was a trade assistant with UGL with the aim of becoming an electrical apprentice next year.

“I’m learning the ropes and it’s awesome,” he said.

“I’ll spend 12 months getting familiar with the work being done… then hopefully in four or five years’ time I’ve got a trade under my belt.”

Mackay Cutters 2024 gains and losses


Kauri Aupouri-Puketapu (Magpies Mackay), Kyle Barnwell (South Sharks Mackay), Riley Dean (Warrington Wolves), Kenny Edwards (Castleford Tigers), Kurt Fisher (Townsville Blackhawks), Mahe Fonua (Castleford Tigers), Matthew Hunter (Townsville Blackhawks), Tom McNulty (Normanby Hounds), John Radel (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Augustus Rangihuna (Magpies Mackay), Rydge Smith (Western Suburbs Devils)


Joel Brown (rugby union), Flynn Camilleri (Sunshine Coast Falcons), Adam Cook (Townsville Blackhawks), Sean Dalton (Brothers Mackay), Brandon Finnegan (Souths Logan Magpies), Jack Hoffman (Brothers Mackay), Tyler Holmes (Wests Mackay), Hayden Pace (Magpies Mackay), Blake Paskins (Norths Devils), Jake Riley (Townsville Blackhawks), Kyle Schneider (Northern Pride),John Schwalger (rugby union), Garrett Smith (Wynnum Manly Seagulls), Matt Vessey (Magpies Mackay)

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