When a team representing the proud people of Mackay goes through a season winning only four games of footy, it’s not only the players, officials and fans who hurt; the whole community feels it.
Their wooden spoon finish in 2016 was the Cutters’ worst since joining the Intrust Super Cup in 2008 – but a change in the coaching staff and the addition of a former Kiwi international has re-energised the sense of hope within Mackay’s football community.
Defeating Tweed Heads 38-6 in their first home game of the year at BB Print Stadium last week didn’t hurt either.
Troy Rovelli has only been in the role of Cutters CEO for the past 12 months, but has been a Mackay local for most of his life and knows the role the team’s success plays in the atmosphere around the town.
“It’s a footy town, there’s no two ways about that and when the footy team is doing well, it just seems to bring a lot of confidence to industry in Mackay in general,” Rovelli said ahead of his side’s clash with the Blackhawks in Townsville this Saturday.
“Mackay is very community-based when it comes to their footy team and if their footy team is more than competitive and win their home games; that puts a whole different slant on the Mackay and district area.
“We’re not promising to put silverware in the cupboard or anything silly like that, but there’s a different air around the place.”
Along with new coach Steve Sheppard, one of the key signings for the Cutters in the off-season was former Sydney Rooster Setaimata Sa, who has returned to Australia after seven years playing in England and France.
He has begun an instrument fitting apprenticeship and has not only brought a sense of professionalism to a young side, but instilled a quiet confidence in the playing group.
Rovelli and legendary figure Arthur Beetson were the ones who recruited Sa from New Zealand to play for the Roosters more than a decade ago and he said the 29-year-old’s influence has been immediate.
“He just brings that bit of calmness,” said Rovelli.
“We’ve got a fair few 20s from the Cowboys and from around the competition and what it does is instil confidence to be brutally honest.
“They look around when they’re getting a bit flustered and Sa is really calming in that respect. He speaks softly but direct.
“He reckons he’s still got three good years in him and it’s been great that his family have found a home in Mackay and I’ve got to say that the Mackay community has really embraced him.”
If he can lead them to somewhere near the premiership success the Cutters enjoyed in 2013 they may never let him leave.
DID YOU KNOW? with Tony Webeck
Setaimata Sa played a rugby Test for Samoa before ever playing a first class rugby match. After three years with Catalans Dragons in Super League, Sa signed to play rugby with London Irish, but was chosen to represent Samoa against Canada before playing for his club side.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.