Rebel for the cause
By TONY WHITE
GRAHAM PETERS has been a passionate South Grafton Rebels rugby league supporter for most of his life.
As a former player, strapper and committeeman, Peters is typical of the Rebel loyalists ? the die-hard fans ? dismayed at the club's management woes but desperate to see the 90-year-old club's proud history survive in its own right.
During an interview with The Daily Examiner he also gives an insight into the running of a football club and the pride and prejudices involved.
Peters firmly believes the club is capable of trading its way out of financial difficulties provided spiralling player payments are reined in and a dedicated committee put in place to pilot the club's future.
Peters was a member of this year's committee. He claims the Rebels are actually in a better financial position than at this time last year.
"This committee was in a shocking position with a $(edited for legal reasons) inherited debt. The main debt is player payments for this year but the committee has paid all its bills, cleared the big debt and done a fantastic job," he said.
And he has firm views on the topic of amalgamation.
"Grafton ain't going to combine with us and we're not going to combine with Grafton. You can bash your head against a brick wall for the rest of your life, it ain't going to happen," he claimed.
Graham Peters started with the South Grafton Rebels in 1975, served as a strapper and committeeman for 15 years and after recovering from a major medical problem, returned to the fold around six years back.
"I wanted to help out only because I felt the club was starting to fall apart a bit and thought a bit of old knowledge might help," he said.
He explains the club's tenuous financial position surrounds mainly player payments.
"The main debt is player payments for this year but that will be paid before the season starts next year," he said.
"That's the way our footy club works. It's always been that way.
"In 2005 we won seven games straight, you've got to pay 17 not 13 players and if reserve grade get up, we've got to pay them, too.
"If you haven't got a leagues club behind you, you can't just get the money and go whoosh. We've got to earn the money before we give it to them.
"We had to dig ourselves out of a big hole first. We'll pay the players before next season and next season we'll start off from scratch. We've paid our debts. It's not as bad as people believe.
"People have to understand if your team keeps winning, you've got to pay money out to the players."
Like hundreds of Rebels fans, Peters is dismayed at current events and the club's financial position.
"We took over, 90 per cent of our bills are paid, there's just some players to be paid and some of those, in my opinion, asked for exorbitant amounts.
"We can't just go and pay one bloke and not the others. What we're trying to do is pay all the smaller blokes out and keep giving money to the bigger debts.
"We've been in this position before, but not as bad. I'd been on the committee 15 years straight. I can't remember ever finishing in front, other than one year when we broke even. That's just the way it is, we only make money through chook raffles and the gate."
Is that good enough to survive in the future?
"No," he says. "One of the biggest problems is the players. I love the players, that's what I do, I look after them but they want too much money. They play one club off another.
"The only way now you can get big-money players is through maybe support from an outsider or some company who might sponsor that player.
"The players are just getting too much money. I can remember when I played you were lucky to get an orange at half-time and if you want to go back a bit further we'd drink a bit of cream cherry in the dressing sheds to give us some dutch courage in the second half. I remember we even played for nothing one year and did all right that season.
"In the old days we had to buy our socks, our shorts, our boots, our jumpers, nowadays the club pays for it. It cost us over $4500 last year to pay for the players jumpers, shorts and sox."
Peters, while admitting amalgamation may be the future, almost bluntly refuses to entertain the idea.
"The reason is because we'd lose our identification," he claimed. "Like St George-Illawarra. People don't walk around town saying St GeorgeIllawarra; they say St George or the Dragons. I'm not silly enough to understand we would be better off, and we would be, but we'd lose our identity.
"And it would be a shame if they combined because Grafton-South Grafton games are the best gates in the competition. It's always been the same. The traditional rivalry would be gone.
"I can't see why we can't keep going. We've been going for 90 years without changing our name, our colours. We've been down and out in this same position before.
"There's no reason why we can't keep going, the town's getting bigger.
"Grafton aren't going to combine with us and we're not going to combine with Grafton.
"You can bash your head against a brick wall for the rest of your life, it ain't going to happen. Not in the current circumstances."
THE Rebels' AGM, set down for tomorrow night, has been deferred for at least two to three weeks, awaiting an auditor's report.