Forgotten man Cuthbertson back in the good books
The decision has been vindicated now – and there is no doubt he has landed firmly on his feet – but as career crossroads go it’s difficult to imagine a moment more defined than when Cronulla told Adam Cuthbertson last September that he was no longer wanted.
Still contracted until the end of 2011 on a healthy $220,000 a year deal, the former Manly front-rower could have taken the easy option and stayed put.
But easy options aren’t his go and when he runs out onto Lavington Sports Ground in Albury this Friday night it is a rejuvenated Adam Cuthbertson that will don the City Origin colours for the first time.
“Last year was a tough year for me but it’s funny how things work out,” the 26-year-old told NRL.com. “It’s never great to hear that you’re not wanted but I think there is no point forcing them to keep you. If you’re not part of the system and you don’t feel like you’re part of the system, there is no point sticking around and wasting your time.
“I could have sat there this year and possibly played reserve grade all year while making some good money but that’s not what I’m about and it’s not what I want to look back and say that I did. I want to be able to say that I had a healthy career.
“I had to leave there in order to start again and that’s exactly what I did.”
Cuthbertson has endured quite the rollercoaster ride over the past two seasons and even he finds it remarkable that his return to the representative arena – having being ruled out of the City side two years ago with injury – should come while playing with his third club in as many years.
Rated as one of the most promising young forwards in the NRL during his four years with Manly (2006-09), he was touted as a key signing for the Sharks in 2010 but struggled from the outset and by mid-season had suffered the ignominy of being dropped by Ricky Stuart to play for the Como Crocodiles in the Cronulla A-grade competition.
“I just think it was a step I took too early in my career – leaving Manly,” Cuthbertson explained. “I should have probably waited until I was ready. I suppose it was just a big shock to my system leaving somewhere that was my whole life and going across to Cronulla where I had no-one outside the team.
“There were a lot of different little scenarios that probably didn’t help but the major factor was just life away from footy and getting a good balance in my life.”
Like many placed in similar situations before him, Cuthbertson said that 2010 provided somewhat of a wake-up call.
“I mean, I obviously wasn’t happy to be dropped but I wasn’t playing my best footy either. I wasn’t good enough for the position at the time and I respected the decision but it all happened and I had to move on and keep faith in my ability.
“I had to get my fitness right and get back there. Unfortunately it took a lot longer than I expected… but I eventually got there.”
As it turned out, Cuthbertson’s second chance couldn’t have come from a better source.
Left without a club and no idea whether any would emerge, it was premiers St George Illawarra that came to the rescue, with the ball-playing front-rower having rediscovered his form of old during the club’s charge to the top of the NRL ladder this season.
“I had hope that someone would want me and luckily for me, Wayne wanted me,” Cuthbertson said. “And it’s been great. The club is very understanding and the boys never doubted me. I just turned up with a good attitude and it’s gone from there. It’s a good culture to be a part of and obviously it’s turned my career around a bit… more than a bit!”
There is some irony, too, in the timing Cuthbertson’s rep return, with newly appointed NSW coach Ricky Stuart – the man that sent him back to Como last year – keeping a close eye on events in Albury this Friday.
“But that’s fine – we left all that behind,” Cuthbertson said. “There is a mutual understanding there. I understand where he was at the time and I think he understands where I was at the time now as well.
“It’s a mutual understanding so I’m sure we’ll leave that all behind and start fresh.
“And I’m not thinking that far ahead anyway – I just see this as a great opportunity to have a good dig.
“I just want to go out and enjoy it. I have no great expectations about whether I get picked for anything else. I just want to represent City as best I can and leave everything out there.
“I’ve worked real hard the past six months or so and this is just a nice little reward for me at the moment.
“I mean, I always maintained hope that I would get back here one day – and here I am. It’s just happened quicker than I expected, I suppose.”