By DAN MacDONALD
FORMER Penrith Panther star Steve Carter signed a one-year playing deal with the South Grafton Rebels yesterday.
Carter, a veteran of over 260 first grade rugby league games, said he had decided to join the club to give Grafton's rugby league atmosphere a boost.
"I had been toying with the idea of having a run for a couple of years," Carter said. "Toying with the idea of doing a bit of training and having a few games.
"I retired from playing in the English Super League a couple of years ago when I was playing for the Widnes Vikings. I feel like I had a few more games in me."
Carter moved to Widnes after a career with the Panthers that spanned over a decade. He remains the club's most capped first-grader, having made his debut in first grade as a Year11 high school student.
"The Vikings have been relegated and I had a bit of an ankle injury when I decided to come back (to Australia), but have been training and thought I'd give it a go," Carter said.
"The Grafton sides have been languishing at the bottom a bit, so I decided to play to give them a bit of a kick-start."
Last season, Carter was coaching the North Sydney Bears Jersey Flegg side. He has moved to the Clarence to take up a position as a development officer and coach with Country Rugby League.
He said his position was with junior players and believed that playing for the Rebels was not a conflict of interest.
"I know there's rivalries between the two clubs but for mine, it's just about giving the town and rugby league here a bit of a boost."
Rebels coach Mark Hooklyn said he was rapt.
"I'm over the moon," he said. "It will be great to have someone of his calibre playing for us.
"I was disgusted about what Garry Anderson said in The Daily Examiner yesterday, it is really disappointing, he's attempting to paint Grafton in a bad light."
Hooklyn said the club was in a good position to be competitive in 2007, with several high-profile players in the pipeline to join.
He remained tight-lipped about the new players but said they included past players, former juniors and players from out of town.
"They're the backbone of the club and they are the players locals like to watch," he said.
And he said he was confident Carter would be a positive acquisition to the club.
"He may be approached to captain as well," Hooklyn said. "And I'm sure he will take it. He'll be playing five-eighth.
"Carter will be a huge asset to me as coach, to the reserves and to the juniors."
nTHE South Grafton Rebels has set two sessions of training next month.
The Rebels will stretch out on December 6 and 20, at 6pm, JJ Lawrence Field outer McKittrick Park.
"All new intending players, past players and anyone wishing to help out in other areas are invited to attend the evenings and get to know others involved with club," club president Janita Cooper said.
For more information contact either Mark Hooklyn on 0428-661284 or Ms Cooper on 04236-37793.