Rebels in trouble

By TONY WHITE and TIM HOWARD

sport@dailyexaminer.com.au

THE future of the South Grafton Rebels Football Club will go on the line at tonight's annual general meeting at the Grafton District Services Club, South Grafton.

Bombshells galore are expected to be dropped at what is expected to be a fiery AGM commencing at 7pm.

A source in the club said a respected local accountant the club should cease operation because of its parlous financial position.

It is also expected various challenges for positions on the committee will take place currently headed by president Allan Rudduck.

The club is understood to have inherited a large debt from season 2003-04 and while some players have received match payments for last season, several players have told The Daily Examiner they are yet to be paid for either 2004 or the 2005 season.

Players were informed by the new committee formed last year they would receive part or full payment for 2004 mid-way through last season.

However, that did not take place and the player payment situation and general unrest within the Rebels committee has fragmented the playing ranks and club loyalty.

Player contracts are also believed to be under close scrutiny.

Star player Xavier Sullivan, who was expected to take over as captain-coach in 2005-06 has left the club.

Sullivan has accepted a lucrative offer to play with the Woolgoolga Seahorses in the Group 2 competition.

"It was a good offer and I want to play in a different area," Sullivan said. "I'm not happy with the Group (NRRRL) or the club (Rebels).

"The player of the year stuff, the payment situation and a combination of things have made me change direction.

"I don't think the club supported me as a future captain-coach.

"What sort of message does that send?"

Last season's captain-coach Stevie Kirby is undecided about his playing future.

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Kirby is understood to have had approaches from Woolgoolga, Grafton Ghosts and Orara Valley coached by former Rebels captain-coach Matt Donovan.

"My partner Melissa is expecting our child any day and my family comes first," Kirby said. "I've put my football future on hold until after the baby is born."

However, it is extremely doubtful Kirby, a club diehard, will again don the Rebels colours.

Ray Mercy, who has been wooed by Ballina, is understood to be in line to take over the captaincoach role if the club can overcome its financial position.

Rudduck offered no apologies for the club's position when contacted yesterday.

He said yesterday sacrifices have been made to pay its way out of debt.

He said the club was $60,000 better off than it had been the year before.

"A lot of the business houses the club owed money have been paid," he said.

Rudduck denied the club was in a parlous financial state and claimed the accountant who said the club should cease operating had not seen all the figures.

"I'm reluctant to comment further on it until I have a final look at the statement," he said.

"I've been away on business and haven't had a chance to look at it."

He admitted the club had not paid some players, but said some smaller player payments had been made.

He claimed the player payment problems had been made more complex by players borrowing money from sponsors, including himself, against their match payments.

He said he was disappointed with the attitude of leading players, including Sullivan, who decided to leave the club.

"We had an agreement that he (Sullivan) was going to be our captain-coach next year," Rudduck said.

"Then someone told me he was going to play for Woolgoolga.

"I still haven't spoken to him about it.

"I think he's still shitty about missing about missing out on that Group players award."



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