Ray Collie will take the field with the Grafton Redmen for the 400th time this Saturday. Declan, Huan and Nick Collie (back) will be playing alongside Ray. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner
Ray Collie will take the field with the Grafton Redmen for the 400th time this Saturday. Declan, Huan and Nick Collie (back) will be playing alongside Ray. Photo JoJo Newby / The Daily Examiner Jojo Newby

Redmen Ray is a true Grafton rugby immortal

MYTHICAL Grafton Redmen hardman Ray Collie may finally be hanging up his boots.

When the no-nonsense forward began his career, Elvis Presley could perform live and Australia beat England in the Centenary cricket test.

A staggering 36 years later and Collie is still going strong, smashing opposition forwards, up to a third of his age.

Collie is a man who lets his rugby do the talking, but a few words with any Redmen from the last few decades shows the effect he has had on the club.

Owen Turner, who helped research Collie's career in 2000 for his life membership presentation, described Collie as being an important part of the "social fabric" of rugby in Grafton and the Far North Coast.

"We gave up having retirement parties in 2001 after he announced it for three or four years straight" Turner said.

"He has been the pillar of the club for many years and a constant guiding force that has built and championed the culture of the club.

"Everyone respects him on and off the field.

"I bet he'll still be at Rugby Park with his boots ready to play for the next few years."

Current Redmen coach Peter Tonkin played with Collie in the 1986 premiership.

"We won it because of the forwards," Tonkin said.

"He believed everything happened in the forwards and the backs were there to look pretty.

"I think he still does."

Club president Adam Crawley paid tribute to Collie's contribution to Grafton rugby,

"Ray is the Grafton Redmen," Crawley said.

"You can talk to anyone in the North Coast about rugby and they'll all ask about Ray.

"Sue (Ray's wife) must be the most tolerant lady in the world to let him play this long.

Ray will be one of five Collies taking the field for the Redmen's final game this year.

COLLIE'S HONOUR ROLL

  • First Redmen game in 1977
  • Played second row, breakaway or lock
  • Club president, treasurer, secretary and committee person
  • Zone delegate
  • Co-ordinated construction of shelter, lights and sponsorship signage
  • Coach: 2nd and 3rd grade and U19s
  • Captain: 2nd and 3rd grade
  • Credited with reviving junior structure
  • Scored first try in their inaugural premiership win (1986)
  • Far North Coast U23 rep (1980-1)
  • Most capped player in Far North Coast history
  • Numerous "Man of the Match" awards
  • Numerous "Player's Player" and "Best and Fairest" awards


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