Cooper Bambling will lead the way for the Mackay Cutters in 2019 after being voted captain by his coaches and peers.
Cooper Bambling will lead the way for the Mackay Cutters in 2019 after being voted captain by his coaches and peers. Daniel McKenzie

New Cutters captain finds happy place in Mackay

RUGBY LEAGUE: From Yeppoon to Canberra via the Sugar City, the Mackay Cutters' newly appointed captain has found his happy place.

Homesick after chasing his NRL dream with the Raiders in 2018, Cooper Bambling had a big decision to make, which led him back to the Intrust Super Cup club and city he now calls home.

Fast forward to 2019 and the solid off-field characteristics Bambling combines perfectly with his playing ability has seen him receive the highest of honours from his coaches and peers.

"It's something I've always wanted to do", said Bambling, after being unveiled as captain by the Cutters on Thursday.

"I was pretty excited when Pup (Cutters coach Steve Sheppard) called me into his office to tell me I'd be captain for the year... you don't expect these things, you just train and be yourself, so when it came I was happy, but I was a bit surprised."

A loveable, knockabout character held in the highest regard at the club, Bambling takes on the position after the departures of 2018 leaders captain Tom Murphy, stand-in captain Nicho Hynes and vice-captain Jack Joass.

However, the last link from the 2018 leadership group, Jayden Hodges, returns to the vice-captaincy role.

With the leadership group rounded out by Blake Atherton and Yamba Bowie, the Cutters are emerging from the ashes of last season.

"You don't want to look back too much on last year... it's about moving forward this year with a whole new leadership group," Bambling said.

"Yamba and Blake are strong voices amongst the group, and when I first moved to Mackay Jayden was here and he'd played NRL before... I looked up to him and got a lot of advice from him and hopefully we can continue that and pass it on to the younger guys.

"Between us four I think we can (accomplish a lot) this year."

Sharing a strong working relationship with Bambling, Sheppard was happy to honour the players' wishes in voting for their captain following pre-season camp.

Backing the playmaker's leadership qualities and ability to control the game from halfback/hooker, Sheppard was confident Bambling would help spark the side in 2019.

"We had an inkling Coop (Bambling) would be up there (in voting), so it was a decision the coaches backed," Sheppard said.

"We wanted someone honest and who leads by example. He's a true competitor, lets his actions do the talking, and he's well respected amongst the group.

"That's what the Cutters need in 2019... the boys respect him and he'll do a great job."

While not ruling out another run at the NRL, Bambling is as content with Mackay and its community as his teammates and the Cutters are with him.

Wanting to get the club back to where it should be, Bambling is in it for the long run and left no doubt as to where he wants to be.

"I moved back here because this is where I'm happiest," he said.

"Home is only three hours away in Yeppoon and I see myself in Mackay for a while... to get the captaincy is the cherry on top.

"It's every footy player's dream to get back into that NRL system and if the opportunity comes up, you have to take it, but I'm set for the Cutters and what we can do for the community as well."