EMERALD will host some of best state rugby league players in the region this weekend when the Central Queensland Comets and Mackay Cutters trial at McIndoe Oval.
The rival sides will be battling for more than just pride when they clash in the last hit-out before the start of the regular season, with both teams eager to put their best foot forward in preparation for the opening round.
Cutters’ chief executive Jamie McDonald maintained the Emerald match-up would be anything but the sub-standard quality of football usually associated with pre-season trial games.
“This is going to be as close to full-strength as we can possibly get,” he said.
“Our main players need the strength and conditioning as much as the rest, both teams really need to be at their best.
“Local derbys such as this are always played with a bit more
passion... a win would give us that little extra confidence boost before round one.”
The game will also form part of the Meng Shield challenge, an inter-club championship designed by Barry Vella from the Meng Group.
Comets’ chief executive Scott Minto said to claim the shield honours would be nice, their sights are set further afield.
“You always want to get the upper hand in these sorts of games and a bit more silverware in the trophy cabinet would never go astray,” Minto said.
“But you want to get the big one (premiership), that’s the main objective.”
The Comets likewise will field as close to a complete pack as possible for the Emerald trial with the exception of one player who is out with suspension and another unavailable due to work commitments.
“Really, we’ve got no injuries,” Minto said.
“We’ll be out there with a full complement of players.”
Mackay is running off a 54-4 thumping at the hands of Cowboys under-20s in Ayr, with Cutters’ playing depth heavily outclassed and a 24-20 win over Easts Tigers in Moranbah at the weekend.
The trial will be the Cutters’ first appearance in Emerald and a perfect opportunity, McDonald said, to give something back to a town still reeling from natural disaster.
“We thought considering what’s happened there with the floods, it was a good chance to take the game to a regional centre and showcase some footy.
“It’s also a good opportunity to gather some Cutters support from outlying areas and promote the code.”
Mackay coach Anthony Seibold said match preparations were well on track but was reluctant to give away much more.
“We got back from Moranbah with a couple of bumps and bruises but overall we’re okay,” he said.
“It’s just about getting a bit of continuity and getting the players to work on their partnerships.”
Central Queensland Rugby League spokesperson Graham Campbell said no matter the score the real winner to emerge from the Emerald match-up will be the code itself.
“It’s a great thing for the Central Highlands and should be great for the game,” he said.
There will be no rest for the Comets as the team charges into round one of the QRL Intrust Super Cup, with their first game against defending premiers Northern Pride from Cairns.
Minto said the Comets team will be looking to stamp its authority right from the first kick-off with a “get in early, beat them early” approach in an effort to instil some early confidence.
All the league action starts from 4pm on Saturday at McIndoe Oval in Emerald.
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