Rebels and Ghosts local derby a glorious day for league
For the first time in a long time both local sides are toward the top of the tree in local competition. Fans also recognised the likelihood of a high quality contest and turned out in their droves in their droves for the local derby at Frank McGuren Field.
While it was a whitewash in all three grades for South Grafton Rebels, the huge, well-behaved crowd meant Grafton Ghosts were the winners off the field.
"The gate was somewhere around eight thousand dollars at a rough count," club president Neil Payne said.
"We sold five sets of doubles, which is what we would sell for a semi-final. The canteen and bar workers were run off their feet all day.
"There were no major dramas anywhere so from an off-field perspective it was a great day for footy.
"It was a great day for the club financially and I'm sure that'll repeat itself across the river in seven weeks time."
An absorbing first grade contest drew a fitting finale to the day. An experienced Rebels line up clearly rattled a comparatively young Ghosts line up to jump out to a 16-0 lead early.
But the Ghosts predictably lifted and threatened to maintain their dominance over the cross-river rivals.
But a battered and bruised Rebels outfit held on to win 28-20 to take the Viv Hodge Memorial Trophy back to South Grafton for the first time since 2009.
While crowd numbers matched what could be expected of finals footy, so too did the intensity.
"It was fast and tough and there was heaps of aggression all over the park," Rebels prop Steve "Rocky" Walker said after his first Grafton local derby experience.
Walker was one of the toughest for South Grafton while Adam Slater, also in his first battle for the almighty Clarence, was equally a standout for Ghosts. The lock forward said he was enjoying his time with the defending premiers having joined the club after Woolgoolga Seahorses withdrew from the 2015 Group 2 competition.
"It was tough, physical game out there and just a shame we couldn't get the win," the Englishman said.
"I've played in derbies before but that is probably the biggest one I've ever played in. It was a massive crowd. I've never seen a country rugby league game this big."