New president of the South Grafton Rebels Rugby League Club Janita Cooper took a while before she decided to accept a nominatio
New president of the South Grafton Rebels Rugby League Club Janita Cooper took a while before she decided to accept a nominatio

Rebels make history

By TONY WHITE

ALBEIT reluctantly at first, Janita Cooper created history yesterday when she accepted the presidency of troubled South Grafton Rebels Rugby League Football Club.

The 32-year-old mother of three is not only the first ever female president of the 90-year-old Rebels but also understood to be the first of her sex to lead a first division club in Group One (now Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League) history.

In the 1980s the now defunct second division club Mid Richmond elected a female president but investigations by The Daily Examiner yesterday suggested Cooper's election almost certainly unique in North Coast rugby league.

Cooper, this year's secretary before standing down at the Rebels ill-fated AGM in October, takes over the reins from Alan Rudduck, who stood down due to his wife Joy's illness and business commitments.

At the reconvened AGM at South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club yesterday, Rudduck was elected vice president and will remain a sponsor of the club.

Rudduck, the only elected official from the October AGM, resigned from his position and nominated Cooper for president, which was seconded by another member.

She initially declined, then was whisked outside the room to discuss matters with several people before returning to the meeting and, in tears, again declining.

Rudduck was then reinstated as president, but during election of offices, Rudduck and other members pleaded with Cooper to rethink her position.

During this period Cooper was very emotional but eventually the members persistence won out and Cooper agreed to take on the position of president, much to the relief of everyone who attended.

Her love of the Rebels is unbounding. Cooper is a diligent and hard working official who has devoted countless hours to the club over the past five years.

"The work load doesn't worry me, I do what I do because I want the club to survive," she said.

"At first I just wasn't convinced the support is there.

"I didn't want to go through the same thing as this year and all the work load falls to the same few people. The players and others have got to pitch in and help, otherwise it's no good.

"I didn't want to see the club fold, that was the way it was looking, that's why I accepted.

"I started with Gail and Tom (McKenna) in 2000. There has been too much hard work put in to see it all go down the drain.

"At least the Rebels will be alive for 2006. I want to restore a family atmosphere to the club. The juniors will be one of my main priorities, keeping them interested and keen.

"There's been to much dissension in the club. I'm a strong believer in everyone being entitled to an opinion, but as committee we've got to agree on things and move on."

After her election Cooper told the AGM: "This year the players ran this club, next year the committee will be running the club, not the players."

She promised a conciliatory style of leadership.

NRRRL secretary Doug Harrison welcomed Cooper's appointment.

"That's excellent," Harrison said. "Janita is a very hard working person with the club's interests at hear and I'm sure she will do a bloody good job."

Janita and her husband, Rebels stalwart Scott Cooper, have three son's - Austin, 9, Elliott, 7 and Lewis, 5.

Financially, the treasurer's report revealed yesterday, the Rebels are $52,000 in arrears but that figure includes long term debts, similar to the two other Clarence Valley Clubs and last year's committee have payed all accrued expenses barring outstanding player payments.

Ray Mercy will captain-coach the first grade team.

Cooper is confident, provided players and supporters rally to the cause and the in fighting quells, the Rebels will survive.



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