McCarthy makes best impression
THE Ipswich Rugby League best and fairest top five is a roll call of familiar names, save one.
The presence of Michael Ryan, Mat Cameron, Steven West and Shane Williams would surprise no one familiar with league in Ipswich.
The one name they might not recognise is Robert McCarthy’s.
The reason being McCarthy, who has played in the IRL since 2009, has spent most of his time in Reserve grade.
The nuggetty forward was one of a group of Kiwis recruited by Bombers club president Kent West in 2009.
He is the only one that remains and is firmly entrenched in his life in Fassifern Valley.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to try to play footy over here,” McCarthy, 22, said of his decision to leave Auckland, where he played for the Glenora Bears.
“It’s better than New Zealand.
“It’s a better environment.
“After the first season I didn’t want to go home, because there’s nothing there.
“I liked Fassifern and the area.
“I’m happy where I am.”
McCarthy lives in Kalbar, works for a tree-lopping firm and is in a relationship with Kelly Parcell, part of the region’s most famous rugby league family.
While he loved his surroundings, things didn’t go to plan on the field.
His first coach at the Bombers, Shane Shoesmith, failed to recognise McCarthy’s potential.
“I just thought the first year I came here the coach didn’t like me,” he said.
“It did get me down a bit. I just didn’t enjoy it.”
It was not much different under Boss Cecil last year.
“Boss was stubborn,” McCarthy said. “You can’t talk to him.
“I just gave up with it.”
This year he has been given a chance in the top grade under coach Daniel Roos and has shown it is where he belongs.
McCarthy doesn’t think he is doing anything different to what he did the previous two years.
Perhaps it is just that Roos was the first one to overlook his stature.
“Target the midget,” was the call from one of the Brothers forwards earlier this season.
It proved futile, however, as the 162cm lock proved a defensive match for whatever they threw at him.
Like West End’s Vinny Stephan, and Brothers’ Jim Quinn, you judge McCarthy on his size at your peril.
“He’s got a very good work rate,” McCarthy’s Bombers teammate and fellow back-rower Liam West said.
“I think he’s just enjoying his footy this year with Daniel coaching.
“He’s definitely got some ability.
“I think people underestimate him because of his size.”
West has enjoyed watching opponents realise their mistake, usually as they are driven backwards in a tackle.
“He’s just hard too,” West said. “He doesn’t back down from anything.
“He loves the tough stuff and you need someone like that in every team.”
McCarthy’s form has been a big factor in Fassifern’s improvement this season.
After losing its first four games it has won the past two and McCarthy has been one of its best.
A win over Swifts at Purga tomorrow could put it into the top four.
“All the boys are getting together now and being a team,” McCarthy said.
“Just that one win (against Norths in round five) really picked us up.”
The goal is to play semi-finals this season, but McCarthy will be going nowhere, irrespective of whether the Bombers achieve that or not.
“This is home for good,” he said.
“It’s got everything.”