Mackay Cutter loving life as a Cowboy.
Mackay Cutter loving life as a Cowboy. Aidan Cureton

'He broke down': Cotter reveals dad's reaction to NRL debut

Rugby league: Injuries have tarnished many athletes' careers. But for Reuben Cotter, they were just obstacles that made his rise to the NRL all the sweeter.

The Sarina Crocodiles junior was always a prodigious, tough-as-nails talent with dreams of donning the North Queensland Cowboys jersey.

But back-to-back ACL injuries in 2016-17 threatened to halt his promising career.

It was Cotter's family who kept him pushing through the pain towards greater heights, and he said it made delivering the news of his NRL round 13 selection an even more emotional experience.

"It brought a tear to my eye, I was barely able to tell my dad when I first called him - he was the first I called. He broke down over the phone,” Cotter said.

"That's how special it was for us and how much it means to the both of us. He's been a huge help in my development on and off the field ... and is someone I look up to so much.

"Thinking back to when I was a little kid and I first started all I wanted to do was pull on a Cowboys jersey. I was fairly emotionally during that week and my family was too - they've been through everything with me.”

It was almost the perfect debut.

Cotter came off the bench against the Manly Sea Eagles, and after a quick play-the-ball close to the line he charged over to score with his first touch.

But his celebrations were short-lived, as his Cutters teammate Shane Wright was penalised for an obstruction.

The near miss has fuelled Cotter's desire to feature more regularly for the North Queensland outfit.

"I still experienced it like it was a try, but unfortunately it wasn't to be,” Cotter said. "It just makes you hungrier, to have it taken away.”

It has been a hectic year for the Cutters hooker as he has bounced to and from his Cowboys duties in Townsville. But to get to this stage despite the struggles caused by his severe injuries is a testament to the 20-year-old's resilience and character.

Should he not feature for the Cowboys next weekend against the Brisbane Broncos, Cotter will lace up at BB Print Stadium to take on the top of the table Sunshine Coast Falcons for the Intrust Super Cup's mental health awareness round.

Cotter said overcoming his injuries was as much a mental battle as it was a physical one.

He needed to distract himself from what the injuries prevented him from doing. Mental health has been a key point of discussion in rugby league circles, and Cotter said it was important the game continued to support its players.

"For me I tended to try and keep my mind busy - whether it was at uni or doing something for someone else. Whatever it is, wherever it may be, keep your mind busy and involved,” he said.

"If you let the negativity take over too much you don't get much done and it takes a toll on your mental health.

"It's such an important part of footy and life. If everyone gets behind it the way Intrust Super Cup and the NRL have lately it's only going to benefit more lives.

"The more people talk about it the better off it'll be.”

The Cutters will kick off against the Falcons at 1.10pm on August 11.

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