A bone-rattling finale
By TONY WHITE
HUMAN missile Cameron Wicks' explosive tackling will provide one of the key weapons when Grafton High tackle arch rivals South Grafton High in tonight's Daily Examiner Shield open final at McKittrick Park.
The match looks set to be a crash-tackling, physical encounter.
Wicks' bone-jarring hits against Maclean High in the preliminary round rocked the stadium.
Grafton's 20-nil win was built around pulverising defence and gaining ascendancy early in the match. Fullback and captain Anthony Don's three-try effort provided the icing on the cake.
On the other hand, South Grafton had to fight hard to overcome a spirited McAuley College fightback 24-20, thanks to a last-minute try by classy prop Daniel Bligh.
The forward battle tonight will go a long way towards determining the outcome with both sides boasting big packs.
And the first 15 minutes promises to be a torrid affair.
Bligh, crafty hooker Rhys Walters, Andrew Cole and tough-tackling back-rowers Cody Ellis, Tim Tilse and captain Brad Rodda, make up a formidable South Grafton pack.
Grafton's giant prop Darren Phillipson is capable of making good yardage through the rucks and his defence can be brutal at times.
Wicks' second-row partner Sam Connor and lock Keiran Berruex, a Ghosts teammate of Rodda's, showed in the preliminary game they are a no-nonsense pack ably guided around the park by smart hooker Josh Salkeld.
Rugby union star Cody Hearfield, a NSW representative back-rower, has been named as an interchange player and looms a surefire strike weapon for Grafton.
Grafton's attacking lynchpin, five-eighth Mitch Rouse, has been ruled out with an arm problem resulting in a backline shuffle.
Fullback Anthony Don moves to five-eighth, winger James Connor to fullback and Mitch Ware comes into the side on the wing.
Don's opposite, Stuart Jonker, is well above average and the match up shapes as one of the more interesting clashes.
Both sets of outside backs have skill and speed to burn.
The consolation final pits last year's Shield winners McAuley College against Maclean High at 6pm with the main game scheduled to kick off at 7pm.