Rugby league is the most popular sport in Mackay, Mackay Cutters rugby league team played their first season in 2008 in the Queensland Cup and act as a feeder team to the North Queensland Cowboys (NRL). The 2nd placed Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs hosted a ‘home’ game at Mackay against the ladder leading Melbourne Storm in Round 16 of the 2012 NRL season for a record Mackay sporting ground attendance. In soccer, Whitsunday Miners Football Club represents the Mackay region in the Queensland State League (QSL). The Mackay Meteorettes (women) and Mackay Meteors (men) represent the region in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL) and are feeder clubs to the Townsville Fire (WNBL) and Townsville Crocodiles (NBL) respectively. Mackay also has a local roller derby league: Mackay City Roller Maidens. The Mackay Cricket Association organises competition among its 6 member clubs: Magpies, Pioneer Valley, Brothers Mackay, Northern Suburbs, Southern Suburbs, and Walkerston. In the 1920s the Olympic Theatre in Mackay was a popular venue for professional boxing and saw stars like Colin Bell and Tom Heeney fight there. Mackay also has local AFL matches at local grounds, such as Magpies Sporting Club and Harrup Park. Such teams in junior and senior are: Mackay City Hawks, Northern Beaches Magpies, Moranbah Bulldogs, Eastern Swans, Sarina Demons and Mackay Saints.
An advertisement appeared in the Daily Mercury in 1918 wanting to know if anyone was interested in playing rugby league. The new game which was a breakaway from rugby union was taking the Southern parts of the state and NSW by storm. From his advertisement a meeting was called resulting with four teams being formed with the first competition game played in June 1919. The four teams were Railways, All Blacks, Rangers and Magpies. All games were played at the Mackay showgrounds which at that time was called Alexander Park. The only surviving team from 1919 is Magpies who join Mackay and District Rugby league celebrating their ninetieth year.
From a humble beginning and inexperience of players because of their union back ground the league took a while to get established. This showed up in the early intercity games with the rep side being well beaten by their northern rivals. It was not until 1934 Mackay won its first intercity title winning the Carlton shield. The Carlton Shield was the fore runner to the now famous Arch Foley shield that was first played for in 1948. The legendry Billy Paton came to Mackay in 1927 and took charge of all training in Mackay, Bills input soon had the game going forward and quickly established league as the premier sport in Mackay. In 1923 Mackay affiliated with Central Queensland rugby league but later cancelled this arrangement and threw in with North Queensland with which it is still affiliated today.
Over the years new teams have joined the competition and others have joined and folded. At present we have an eight team competition with each club fielding A, Reserve and under 18 sides. With the inclusion of Dysart and Moranbah in the competition in 1988 the league changed its name from Mackay Rugby league to Mackay and District Rugby league. Dysart is no longer with Mackay and have gone back to Central Queensland league. The league now plays its competition on a home and away basis with all finals and representative games played at the Junior Rugby league grounds. With a government promise of 10.5 million to build a new stadium the Mackay Cutters joining the state wide Q Cup competition the future looks bright for our game.
There have been a number of quality players that have come out of this area to go on and represent Australia and State Of Origin. Pre origin there was Graham Laird, Elton Rasmussen, Ray Laird, Eric Webster, Eric Bowe, Hume Ronald and Booker Primrose. Since State of Origin, Dale Shearer, Martin Bella, Wendal Sailor, Brett Dallas, Kevin Campion all these players have represent Queensland or Australia.
Over the years there have been many dedicated officials to run and organise our game. Notable contributions were made by Jack O’Brien, Jack Casey, Beau Taylor, Alex Dent, Col Grant, Aub Kruskie and Greg Sutherland. Indeed there were many more who worked hard to build our league to its present strength.
Mackay Basketball is one of the QBL’s foundation clubs and has competed in the League since its inception in 1986.
The Mackay Meteorettes were crowned champions of the QBL for the first time in 1987 and won their second QBL title 25-years later in 2012. The team then made it a ‘three-peat” with championships following in 2013 & 2014. The Meteorettes were also runner-up in 1986, 1988, 1990, 1995, 2003 – the same year the team took out QBL Super 8 Division title, 2016 & 2017.
On the men’s side the Meteors experienced back-to-back QBL championship success in 2011 & 2012 after finishing runner-up in 2010. The men then reached the QBL mountain top once again with the club’s third men’s championship in 2015. In 2010 the Under 23 Meteors won the Tropical Youth League, the northern feeder competition for the QBL.
There have been many sensational players that have competed for the Meteors & Meteorettes that have gone on to play in the WNBL, NBL and also represent Australia.