By TONY WHITE
MERCURIAL league five-eighth/centre turned rugby union convert Ray Mercy admits to doing plenty of listening during an auspicious debut for the Grafton Redmen last Saturday.
Turning out for his first ever match 'in the game they play in heaven' against last year's premiers Ballina at Kingsford Smith Park, the 32-year-old former South Grafton Rebel and North Queensland Cowboy showed when it comes to rugby basics, running, kicking ball skills and defence, Mercy has abundant talent.
Mercy, although tentative at times, proved a smash hit for his new club in sidestepping opponents in the dying stages and putting another former league player Aaron Taylor in under the posts for the Redmen to avenge last year's grand final loss to Ballina.
"It (union) is certainly different to league and for a first timer, totally different," Mercy said yesterday.
"I've just got to get used to it (union).
"The lads were really good out there. They were talking to me and communicating which made it easier. Give me a couple of more games and I'm sure I'll get used to it. I really enjoyed the game and we ended up winning which was real good.
"I'm told it was against last year's winners so that's good for the club."
Throughout last week Mercy had been shown some of the rudimentary facets of union by Redmen coach Gary Powell, particularly releasing the ball when tackled.
The first time Mercy got caught in a ruck, he remembered Powell's words.
"Yeah, I just waited for the referee to call 'release'. Gary's been talking to me. I'm learning," he said.
Mercy didn't really know what to expect when caught in the middle of a maul with flying bodies and boots.
"The first time I got tackled there were plenty of blokes around but I don't remember getting clipped," he said.
"Those rucks are different to what I'm used to.
"I never thought I'd ever be playing union.
"I've watched it and I'll be watching more on television to try and get more understanding of the game.
"It's not really that hard and the guys made it a lot easier for me.
"It was totally enjoyable and I'm really looking forward to the next game."
Redmen captain-coach Coach Powell was pleased with Mercy's union debut.
"Ray Mercy stepped two blokes at the end to put Aaron (Taylor) under the posts to seal the game. Ray was a bit stand-offish, as you would be if you haven't played the game much before, but by the end he was coming into first receiver and his kicking game was good."