Rebels middle-weights up against the heavies
By TONY WHITE
IT'S lucky new South Grafton Rebels coach Phil Sullivan describes himself as a natural optomist.
After enduring a 70-nil thrashing in 70 minutes at the hands of Cudgen before a 200-strong crowd at McKittrick Park yesterday, 'Sully' found some positives to come out of the embarrassing debacle.
"I was disappointed at the scoreline. I wasn't disappointed at the players effort," Sullivan said after the second grade game.
"We played a side with a fair bit more class and considering the preparation we've had it was like a heavyweight boxer against a middleweight.
"We copped a few injuries too which didn't help.
"In fairness they were quicker than us out wide and better organised.
"It's not a great way to start but I'm told more players are coming and considering people didn't think we'd have club a couple of months back, we can hopefully only go forward."
The doomsday merchants now have added fuel to want to write off the Rebels as a hapless bunch of uncompetitive no-hopers but Sullivan, the Rebels committee, players and supporters deserve credit for fighting against the odds to survive.
"I certainly won't be the last Rebels coach," Sullivan said to the doubters.
While the score line was ugly, it must be said Cudgen head coach Jamie Mathiou fielded at least half a dozen quality first graders including Damien Bryant, Brian McCarthy, Nick Mobbs and Craig Cooke.
It's doubtful many reserve grade sides would have been able to match such a classy side.
Sullivan, who only started last week, should be at least given some breathing space to allow his team to come together as a unit and hopefully attract some better class players, which on yesterday's performance is a must.
Mathiou said he was pleased by the effort, particularly winning the Under-18s, 26-12.
"We've got good depth this year," The Hornets coach said. "We finished fourth in first grade and the reserves made the finals but we were weak in Under-18s.
"Our goal, as a club to is improve on last year."
Mathiou reinterated his stance on the Rebels participation in the NRRRL with only a second grade and Under-18 teams.
"I'm not happy. I think the league (NRRRL) should have looked at it earlier but we're playing now so let's just get on with it," he said.
Mathiou singled out Bryant and halfback O'Keefe as "outstanding."
The pair were ably supported by five-eighth Mobbs who contributed a try and 11 goals from as many attempts and live wire hooker Craig Cooke.
The Rebels were best served by captain Scott Cooper, tough as teak Eddie DeBono and Ben Woods.
RESERVE GRADE: CUDGEN 70 (Steve O'Keefe 3, Brian McCarthy 2, Adam Evans 2, Craig Cooke 2, Joe Pritchard, Nock Mobbs, Corey Williams tries; Nick Mobbs 11 goals) b SOUTH GRAFTON 0. Referee: Dion Aldridge. Half-time: 30-nil Cudgen.
UNDER-18s: CUDGEN 26 (Luke Donaldson 2, Steve Carson, Jimmy Armstrong, Drew Lanston tries; Travis Drought 3 goals) b SOUTH GRAFTON 12 (Dale Eamens, Trent Gordon tries; Dale Eamens, Dwayne Randall goals).