Our newest North Queensland Toyota Cowboy Patrick Mago says a calculated move two years ago to head north has paid off, with the 22-year-old Brisbane product excited at the prospect of playing his first NRL home game this weekend.
New Zealand-born Mago made his NRL debut in last weekend’s eight-point loss to the Panthers in Sydney, the young back-rower running strongly for 63 metres in five carries plus effecting 14 tackles in a 22-minute cameo off the bench.
Selected again in the Cowboys team – who host the Sharks in a crucial Round 24 match on Saturday – Mago is jumping out of his skin for a second crack at NRL-level footy.
“I came up to the Mackay Cutters two years ago to play Queensland Cup, then I got a train-and-trail with the Cowboys – for which I’ll always be grateful – then last year I was offered a contract, so it’s been a great journey,” Mago said.
“This was always my dream, and I’m so thankful to the club for giving me a start … I know that I need to keep working hard and continue to work on my fitness at this level.”
After a frustrating year with the Cutters in 2016 – where he was suspended several times – Mago looked to get into better shape in the 2017 pre-season, figuring that his ill-discipline was partly due to making poor decisions under fatigue.
That hard work, plus some medical attention for a worrying internal injury which was causing him to bleed excessively, has paid off in spades for the quietly spoken two-time Junior Kangaroo, who switched to the Northern Pride in the Q-Cup this year and has quickly established himself as one of the form forwards of that competition.
Mago said NRL footy was "heaps faster" than Q-Cup, and his major challenge was to keep working hard in the gym and on the field.
He paid tribute to his teammate and housemate Sam Hoare for helping him with his diet, which he has looked to improve during his time at the Cowboys.
He added that established NRL powerhouse Jason Taumalolo had also helped him with his game, offering advice and suggestions on how to get the most out of his physical gifts.
“Jase has been outstanding with his talk at training and during the game on the weekend,” Mago said.
“He’s always been someone I’ve looked up to and I really admire the way he plays the game.”
Saturday’s game against the Sharks kicks off at 7.30pm.