Legend's son 'could be anything'
He is the proud owner of rugby league genes that just about any junior would be proud to call their own but before he reaches the heights of his father, Zac Mackay has to understand one thing: Just how good he can be.
The son of former Panther, Origin and Test star Graham Mackay, Zac has been selected on the wing for Burleigh on Friday against the PNG Hunters in a massive Anzac Day celebration of footy in the Intrust Super Cup.
In addition to the Bears-Hunters clash at Pizzey Park at 3.30pm, the Central Queensland Capras host Mackay at Rockhampton at 4pm and Wynnum Manly play Norths at BMD Kougari Oval also at 4pm to kick off Round 9.
Other than being the son of a league legend, Zac Mackay shot to prominence in 2012 when he scored 38 points (four tries and 11 goals from 14 attempts) playing for Penrith in the National Youth Competition and was subsequently recruited to play for the North Queensland under-20s in 2013.
He was restricted at Townsville by a persistent quadriceps injury and has since returned to where his family is based on the Gold Coast and linked up with Burleigh. After copping a bad cork in his opening game against the Norths Devils, he has again begun to show type of form in the lower grades that has talent scouts salivating.
Along with Henare Wells and Ryley Jacks (both former Roosters under-20s players), Mackay is one of three youngsters at Burleigh trying to make the transition from the National Youth Competition to NRL and Bears coach Carl Briggs has no doubt that the strapping winger/centre has the trademarks of a future superstar.
"I still don't believe Zac realises how good he could be if he really works his game," Briggs told NRL.com.
"He's very raw at the moment, regarding football-wise, I believe. I reckon another year or two and we'll see the potential that Zac's got.
"Zac's a guy that doesn't realise the potential he's got. He's big, he's quick, he can finish tries and he can defend as well. He's very, very similar to his dad and I think he's going to end up the same size as his dad. He's only 20 but he's definitely one for the future.
"He'll play this week against Papua New Guinea because he's physically up to it. He's had a couple of injuries that he's had to get over but I've been pleased with the way he has got over them and his attitude while he's not been playing. He's been a good addition to us."
Having had a taste of life as a professional footballer at two NRL clubs already, the next 12-18 months shapes as a critical period for Mackay, Wells and Jacks, who still harbour deep desires to play at the highest level and Briggs believes how they respond playing in the Intrust Super Cup will determine their fate.
"Zac's like a lot of 20s kids when they come back, they are at that crossroads," said Briggs. "The NYC is a great concept but what players have also got to realise as well is if you don't get graded and you don't go into a top-25 squad after being 20 year old, it's not all doom and gloom and it's not all finished.
"They've been fantastic, all three of them. I still don't believe we've seen the best of Henare yet. I watched him over a full season last year and although he's been good, I know Henare's got a lot more to come.
"He's a player that works off the back of his confidence and he's working on certain parts of his game that he knows he needs to improve on. We've not seen the best of Henare yet but he's been good for us so far."
Along with potential stars of the future, the Burleigh team boasts Titans-contracted players in Steve Michaels and Siuatonga Likiliki as well as players with extensive NRL experience such as Matt Keating, Matthew Bell and Nafe Seluini.
With the Hunters making their first appearance at Pizzey Park and the occasion that it is Anzac Day, Briggs is expecting an atmosphere that players rarely get to experience at this level.
"There's a buzz around the place," Briggs said. "Obviously it's the first time we've played PNG and there's an excitement around what they're going to bring not only on the field but off of it.
"We're expecting a big, big crowd, probably one of the biggest we've seen in a while, so the players will respond to that I'm sure.
"When it was first mooted that we wanted to play Anzac Day a couple of people wondered why but we don't want anyone to look at it any other way other than to see it as a mark of respect for the Diggers that we're playing on this day and the sacrifices they made.
"We'll give it the utmost respect that the day deserves."