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Cutler creates history as NRL's first female on-field medico

A mid-season move to South-East Queensland has led to club staffers taking on extra duties, providing Knights physio Louisa Cutler with a slice of NRL history.

Cutler is believed to be the game's first female on-field medico after assuming the role in Newcastle's clash with Melbourne in round 18 last month.

But the mother of two, who started as an NRL and under-20s physio with the Roosters in 2007, doesn't regard herself as a trailblazer.

"I don't necessarily do it as a means of trying to forge forward for women," Cutler said.

Renowned for her professionalism, Cutler's role at Newcastle, which she's held since late 2018, is usually centred on injury rehabilitation.

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But after all the NSW, ACT and Victorian clubs relocated north to escape the COVID-19 outbreak, she has treated players on the field.

Teams were only permitted to take a contingent of 41 people - including players - so staff members have needed to be flexible.

"We tend to joke about the fact that I'm the Steven Bradbury of the club, the last man standing, having to do that role," Cutler said.

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"It's never been something that I've strived to do as far as physio with NRL goes, but it's just something that I've had to do given the circumstances we're in.

"And hopefully, along the way, doing a decent enough job to keep coaches happy and players happy as well.

"I've been doing it round to round. The first two games we lost, so it probably wasn't a great experience.

Louisa Cutler checks up on Hymel Hunt during Newcastle's win over Brisbane.
Louisa Cutler checks up on Hymel Hunt during Newcastle's win over Brisbane. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"But the last two games we've won and it's always nice to be out there and get a feeling for a win on the field like that.

"The other thing that I probably noticed the other week, in particular, I was out running and checking on a player, standing behind the play and Tyson [Frizell] made a run down the field.

"Up until then, I've never really appreciated how hard they actually run. I can see it on the sideline and you obviously see it a lot at training. And treating the injuries that I do, you get an appreciation.

"But I remember looking up at that split moment and thinking, 'Holy heck, no one's going to be able to stop that guy at all'."

As the game celebrates Women in League Round, Cutler will again be on field this Sunday at Redcliffe's Moreton Daily Stadium when Newcastle take on Cronulla.

She has enjoyed seeing the game from a new perspective.

"It probably is very different because my role here at the Knights is purely rehab physio, so obviously it's a lot more controlled and more planned and structured from a day-to-day aspect," she said.

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"In a game situation when injuries happen and decisions need to be made quickly on the spot, it is challenging my mindset and making me shift my mind differently, which is kind of interesting as well."

With the squad in camp together, Cutler's daily schedule has also been busier than ever in recent times.

"We're in a unique situation as far as club health goes. I've probably now put the mocker on us and we're going to get a horrible run of injuries, but we're actually really good at the moment," she said.

"We've got the opportunity to do a lot more maintenance work and prep work that we normally wouldn't do, or myself personally.

I like to think that we all just get in and do our job, no matter who we are or what we are.

Louisa Cutler

"We've gone through periods where I've had 10 to 12 players in one time to manage with injuries, so I haven't had a lot of time to spend with other players dealing with day-to-day maintenance work.

"We, unfortunately, fell into the trap of treating a bit more than what you normally would, particularly during the lockdown period.

"Now the players can get out and do stuff, we're not getting bothered as much by them, which is a nice change from the last four weeks."

Cutler intended to walk away from working in the NRL after her Roosters stint at the end of 2017 and moving to Newcastle with her family for a change of pace from Sydney's bustle.

However, an offer from the Knights quickly popped up and at the urging of her husband, Cutler accepted the role.

Throughout a long career full of evolution, Cutler said she has never been made to feel different because of her gender.

"Women in League Round is a good one to have highlight what women do and how they contribute to the sport," she said.

"But I also kind of find it a little bit uncomfortable at times - just more because I like to think that we all just get in and do our job, no matter who we are or what we are. I find it an interesting round.

"But I also think it's a nice round. I have an eight-year-old daughter and it's nice for her to see women getting recognised and highlighting that we can do certain roles as well."

 

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