Country at heart

By AARON KELLY

LANDMARK Queensland Country Heelers forward James "Dolph'' McUtchen has plenty of grunt.

Whether it's cruising along the highway to the tune of Lee Kernaghan in his WB ute or working on his family's pig farm at Murgon, McUtchen is the "Country'' in the Queensland side.

McUtchen, 26, will hit the field with the Heelers when they clash with the Adelaide Black Falcons at Rockhampton's Rugby Park today.

In a must-win Australian Rugby Shield assignment, the Heelers need only to beat Adelaide to book a flight to Perth for the decider on June 18.

If the Heelers lose, and the NSW Country Cockatoos take maximum points on the road against Darwin, then the Heelers' season is over.

Heading west should not be a problem for McUtchen, last year's Queensland Country player of the year, who made the four-hour trek north to Rockhampton yesterday in his trusty old ute while his teammates arrived via plane.

"I'm not a big fan of flying,'' McUtchen said.

The big No.8, who plays for Dalby in the Darling Downs competition, only took up rugby while at Ag College in Dalby when he was 19.

He made his first rep team just two years ago after juggling rugby and soccer duties on the Downs.

"I enjoy playing at this level of footy,'' McUtchen said. "I played soccer until I was 21 and then got the taste of rugby.''

McUtchen, who broke his nose in the Heelers' 41-29 win over Melbourne in Townsville last weekend, is happy to be back on the field after a full knee reconstruction ended his campaign mid-season in 2004.

Rockhampton's Joel Johnston ? one of three Brahmans in the Queensland Country line-up, which also includes Sean Kearns and Jamie Blyton ? said McUtchen's dry sense of humour was a hit.



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