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The Illawarra Cutters returned to training under the guidance of new Head Coach Mat Head midway through November.

Head has been appointed to the position after most recently holding the title of St George Illawarra Dragons National Youth Competition Head Coach last season.

He will balance this role alongside his duties as Dragons Transition Coach which will have him help with the progression of players, many of whom are anticipated to be graduates of the 2016 Dragons NYC squad, as they prepare for the NRL.

“There was an opportunity that arose for me to make the step-up to coach the Cutters as well as serve as a Transition Coach within the NRL squad which really appealed to me,” said Head.

“They are two roles that I am really looking forward to and I am excited by the challenges that no doubt lie ahead.

“The make-up of the Cutters squad will be a blend of some younger faces who have either graduated from the Dragons NYC squad or arrived having played local Illawarra Coal League and the more experienced first-grade players who will filter down from the Dragons NRL squad.

“The players involved in the pre-season so far are training hard which is pleasing to see and they are focused on trying to earn a spot in the line-up come the opening round of the new season.

“They are also aware that the Cutters serves as a primary pathway for many aspiring locally-based players to potentially reach the Dragons NRL squad.”

Furthermore, Australia international and former NRL player Luke Bailey (St George Illawarra Dragons 2000-06; Gold Coast Titans 2007-14) has been appointed Assistant Coach while Anthony Cutrupi has been elevated to Cutters Strength & Conditioning Coach after holding a similar role with the Dragons NYC team last season.

The Cutters pre-season train-on squad presently comprises of 16 players of which five are returning members of the successful 2016 squad which won both the NSW Cup Premiership and the NRL State Championship.

These returning players will be joined by 11 new additions which are a combination of graduates of the Dragons NYC squad, players from the local Illawarra Rugby League and players from external competitions.

In total, the Cutters presently comprise of 11 local juniors from across the St George, Illawarra and South Coast regions.

2017 Cutters Contracted Pre-Season Training Squad:

Adam Clune (Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles); Sam Clune (Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles); Kal Collins (Gerringong Lions); Jesse Dee (Warilla- Lake South Gorillas); Addison Demeterou; Ryan Fletcher (Arncliffe Scots); Nathan Ford (Gerringong Lions); Jay Gallagher; Matt Jurd (Shellharbour Sharks); Rhys Kennedy; Eric Newbigging; Jack Noble (Thirroul Butchers); Jack Payne (Corrimal Cougars); Blake Phillips (Helensburgh Tigers); Luke Sutton (Kiama Knights); Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards.

The Illawarra Cutters squad will compete in three pre-season fixtures ahead of their new NSW Cup campaign,

The reigning NSW Cup Premiers will commence their preparation by hosting the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday, February 4.

The Cutters will then host the Wyong Roos at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday, February 11.

Their final fixture prior to the new season will see them face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday, February 18.

Cutters 2017 Pre-Season Fixtures:

Saturday, February 4
Trial v Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles
Location: WIN Stadium, Wollongong

Saturday, February 11
Trial v Wyong Roos
Location: WIN Stadium, Wollongong

Saturday, February 18
Trial v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Location: WIN Stadium, Wollongong