In the lead up to the 2014 VB NSW Cup season, we will shine the spotlight on all 13 competing teams to see how they are shaping up for the year ahead.
Today we take a look at the Illawarra Cutters.
Head Coach: Ian Millward
Home Ground: WIN Stadium & WIN Jubilee Oval
Year Entered Competition: 2012
2013 Result: 9th - (10 wins, 13 losses and a draw)
2014 Key Signings (Dragons/Cutters): Josh Ailomai (Sydney Roosters), Matt Groat (Wests Tigers), Peter Mata’utia (Newcastle Knights), Michael Witt (London Broncos) & Dylan Farrell (South Sydney Rabbitohs).
It has been an interesting couple of seasons for the Cutters in the VB NSW Cup.
In their inaugural season they were one of the real excitement machines and made the finals, and then in 2013 they were once again the cardiac kids however a host of close losses saw them just miss out on a top eight finish.
The then Head Coach Paul MacGregor has since handed over the reins to another one of Illawarra’s favourite sons in Ian Millward to become a full time member of the St George coaching staff.
Millward returns to the club after mainly honing his craft in the UK for the past decade or so including stints with Wigan and Castleford however it was at St Helens where Ian really made his mark.
He led the club to two Super League titles in 2000 & 2002 as well as Challenge Cup success in 2001 & 2004.
Now having returned home to a place where the Millward name is synonymous with Rugby League, Ian seems happy to be in familiar territory.
“This place is such a huge part of my life and my development in so many ways, so it’s good to be back and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.” Millward said.
With a new coach looking after things at the Cutters now, the slate appears to have been wiped clean from last season and everyone, including the coaching staff all begin on level footing.
“I guess given that it is all new to me here, I will be taking a fresh approach to everyone.
“Paul has done a wonderful job with the side since they came into the competition but we have undergone a reasonably large personnel change over the off season so as far as I’m concerned this is a great chance for a new start for everyone.”
The Dragons have signed a number of players in the off season and as a result appear to have wonderful depth in a number of key positions. The Cutters, like many VB NSW Cup affiliates, will be hoping for a relatively injury free run for the top squad… Because if the Dragons stay injury free, this Cutters side definitely appears to be a team on the rise.
In terms of what Millward is hoping to get out of the upcoming season, it was fairly simple.
“We will look to develop and help players progress into the NRL by hopefully getting the best out of each and every player while creating a culture that is competitive but also hopefully fun.”
The Cutters have two further trials against the Bulldogs and Bears respectively before a first round clash with the Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium on Saturday March 8.