Why Intrust Super Cup debuts are on hold for U20 Cutters
WITH the Mackay Cutters ruled out of Intrust Super Cup finals, these last rounds would provide the perfect opportunity to test some young talent in the development program.
But coaches from both ISC and Under-20s teams say that won't be the case.
Instead the young Cutters will be dedicated to their own finals campaign.
Before Round 23, the Mackay Hastings Deering Colts side sat comfortably in fifth place, with a sure spot in the September action.
Coach Michael Comerford said he was grateful ISC boss Steve Sheppard backed the U20s for their best chances at a premiership run.
"Pupp (Sheppard) has been really good this last part of the season in making sure we can put our best team on the paddock each week,” Comerford said.
The U20s coach said there were few greater things to take pride in than seeing a player graduate to play higher football but added there was just as much pride in a strong season finish.
For those with the skill to play Q-Cup footy, he said, these last two rounds would just push back the inevitable.
"A fair portion of our team have shown they have the potential to play ISC.
"It may not happen at the moment because of the circumstances, but if they keep training at the level they are and stay at the club, what you'll find is they'll be playing ISC in the near future.
"Look at the number of players in this competition contracted to NRL clubs. I have no doubts you'll see a lot of these boys progress to the NRL in the next 4-5 years.”
Logan Bayliss-Brow and Garrett Smith earned their Cutters debut this year, alongside Cowboys contracted player Jye Andersen, who debuted for the Cutters in 2018.
"In other circumstances I have no doubt that we would have had a number of players who would have played this year,” Comerford said.
"While that means players might not get the opportunity they otherwise would, the boys sense another opportunity to (succeed) in this competition.”
Having maintained most of last year's roster, Comerford said he knew the U20s side would find success from the beginning of the season.
A four-game losing streak between rounds four and eight was not enough to lower the team's moral.
"We had a pretty slow start to the season. We had a few injuries and work commitments, which put a few boys out of action,” he said.
"The boys could see that that wasn't always going to be the case.
"We knew we would get a good run with all players available.
"Once we snapped out of that we were able to string six in a row in the middle of the season and find our form a couple of times.”
With the exception of a few tough losses against Townsville Blackhawks and Sunshine Coast Falcons, the Cutters U20s have maintained their winning form.
Tomorrow the Cutters will do battle with Ipswich Jets for the chance to climb to fourth.
While the opposition is one rung above the competition's lowest place, Comerford said Ipswich's motivation would be to upset the Cutters' finals run.
"They've found a bit of form towards that latter part of the season. . . that's dangerous,” he said.
"They drew to Tweed Heads which was one of the toughest matches of our season.
Boasting a predominantly Mackay born-and-raised roster, Comerford said there was a home pride amongst his team members not necessarily found at higher levels.
"What it does do is that home pride gives the boys something to draw on in those big games,” he said.
"We've found that we can push ourselves further than we would first expect because there is that camaraderie and pride for the Cutters jersey.”