Topics:  grafton redmen, steve hackett

At home in Copmanhurst

Grafton Redmen’s electrifying fullback Ben Stone loves the wide open spaces on and off the field.
Grafton Redmen’s electrifying fullback Ben Stone loves the wide open spaces on and off the field. Gary Nichols

AS Ben Stone looks out over the Clarence River he can see a splendid vision.

A self-confessed "bushy" at heart, the Grafton Redmen fullback has found his calling.

After moving to Grafton nine months ago, the 28-year-old law enforcement officer has made the charming village of Copmanhurst his home. And he couldn't be happier.

"I grew up as a young fellow on a farm with my grandparents out at Peak Hill, which is located between Parks and Dubbo, out in the red-soil dust," Stone said.

"I spent a bit of time in Sydney with work and I hated it. I love the space.

"We came out and looked at the place (Copmanhurst) before I took the job and I love it. Grafton is only 30 minutes away and it has a rural feel about it, which suits me right down to the ground."

A former league player, it was a chance meeting with Redmen under-19 coach Steve Hackett that swayed Stone to the 15-a-side game.

"I played league for the Macquarie Raiders in Dubbo and played half-a-season last year with the Dubbo Rhinos rugby side.

"And obviously with the transfer with work I ended up here. It all came about while I was pushing the lawn mower and Steve saw me while he was having a beer in the pub.

"So I walked down to the pub after I finished mowing and he asked if I played rugby. I told him I played half-a-season last year so he convinced me to come over to the Redmen and that was pretty much how it came about."

A noted speedster on the footy field and a crowd favourite, Stone can turn a game in the blink of an eye.

But it wasn't until he was in his late teens that he decided to try his hand at rugby league.

"Growing up I was a representative hockey player for New South Wales All Schools and I was actually captain of the NSW CHS side," Stone said.

"I've always had a bit of pace but I stopped enjoying hockey in 2001, so I thought I'd have a go at league.

"My grandma always said: 'If you don't enjoy what you're doing, find something else to do'."

Stone has made an art form of the chip-and-chase this season, backing his electrifying pace against opposition defenders.

However, the Redmen number 15 says his teammates cringe every time he gets "that look" in his eye and sets himself to put one over the top, sometimes from well within his own half.

"Obviously not being union minded yet, a few blokes have said to me it's a pretty risky thing to do," Stone said.

"I think I just see an opportunity and go for it, back my pace."

Stone admits the Redmen have struggled in recent weeks and things don't get any easier on Saturday when they come up against an in-form Lismore team.

"I think having the home crowd will help.

"Each week there has been positives coming out of the game," he said.

"Our biggest drama at the moment, from where I'm standing, is getting the same combinations in the backline each week."



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