Whether it’s new coach Jason Demetriou, English import Tyrone McCarthy, or even the successful expansion of their brand on social media platforms; the Illawarra Cutters have come extremely far both on and off the field in the past 12 months.
After failing to qualify for the finals last year, the Cutters finished the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW season in second position, while boasting the best defensive record in the competition.
McCarthy is a fresh face after arriving from the Hull Kingston Rovers last year, and believes that Demetriou – who was on the coaching staff of premiership winning North Queensland Cowboys in 2015 – has developed a winning culture within the club.
“There’s a new culture with JD [Demetriou], he brought that culture in and in a season of building we are performing at the right time of the year,” McCarthy tells NSWRL.com.au.
“It’s a lot of the newer boys playing together [too], everyone seems to have each other’s back.
“I think at the beginning of the year we were inconsistent with some of the results, but at the back-end of the season we’ve really found the groove”
McCarthy is new to the club, but is no stranger to Australia, having played for Northern Pride in 2014 in the Queensland-based Intrust Super Cup.
He’s an Irish international with 12 caps to his name, and has played a handful of NRL games for the St George Illawarra Dragons this year.
“My aim of coming back out to Australia was to play NRL,” McCarthy explained.
“Obviously I haven’t had as many opportunities that I would have hoped for but it was nice to get out there and see the level of where I want to go to next.
“I went to Hull KR last year and had a decent season with the view that I was always trying to come out here and the Dragons gave me that, so it was nice to fulfil that goal and get a couple of games under my belt.
“Hopefully there’s a few more in the future.”
The key to the Cutters success, and potentially the Dragons in the future, is Drew Hutchinson.
He’s a crafty halfback who controls the game beautifully, and was given an opportunity last Monday to play NRL against the Parramatta Eels to give him another small taste, and scored a try in the process.
Consequently, the Cutters were missing him last week against Wyong, as well as McCarthy, who credited his new-look side for their fantastic 28-20 victory away from home.
“You would think there would be a chance of an upset, but that shows how strong the squad is when a couple of the boys are out and we’re grinding out victories like we did at the weekend,” McCarthy said.
“In the last month Drew has been the standout with his consistency and influence on the team and he had his opportunity [last week] with the Dragons.
“He’s going to be massive in the big games coming up.”
It’s go-time for the Cutters now, as they will host the Wests Tigers tomorrow at UOW Jubilee Oval in the first week of the finals as the curtain raiser for Ben Creagh’s farewell match.
While it’s not do-or-die, there is a lot at stake with the winner securing a one-way ticket to the preliminary finals.
McCarthy hopes his side can continue their momentum and maintain the performances they have put forward over the past few weeks.
“I think it’s the cliché of performance, at this time of year is when results matter most,” McCarthy said.
“We’ve just got to go out there and build on what we’ve been doing over the last month or so and build our confidence going into the game, and just play how we have been playing over the past few months.”