Rebels? player crisis
By TONY WHITE
WITH just seven weeks until the 2006 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League season kicks off the South Grafton Rebels have only five senior players signed with the club.
New president Janita Cooper said the situation was not a crisis, but one of 'major concern'.
While the senior ranks are extremely thin ? included among the five signed players is first grade captain coach Ray Mercy who is battling to be fit for the start of the season after rupturing a knee ligament in the recent sevens tournament in Orara ? the junior ranks are swelling.
"We've had only five seniors attend training," Cooper said.
"It's similar to last year, but if the seniors out there are going to play they've got to start getting to training. The season has been moved forward three weeks. It's getting down to crunch time.
"The biggest disappointment for us (committee) is if the seniors don't come and support the club, the juniors, with high potential, will be left wandering the streets and not able to fulfill their dreams.
"They (juniors) are the ones holding the club together. They've been training with tremendous enthusiasm and showing up every night. I can't speak highly enough of their support.
"The sponsors are in place, the committee is working hard, we just need the senior players to wake up."
Cooper said she believed there is a backlash among a group of former players over fines from last season and the new player payment scheme put in place this year.
"I believe there is some bitterness out there because we enforced fines from last year," Cooper said.
"I believe that's one of the main problems and also not offering sign on fees or contracts. Everyone is treated equally this year.
"For the club to survive we can't offer the ridiculous money that some players have got previously.
"This club has to be run by the committee, not the players."
The Rebels are scheduled to play a trial match against Orara Axemen at Jabour Park today week with an Under-18s and mixed (first and second grade) open side.
Cooper said she was hopeful of having enough players to field two teams.
"I think they (senior players) will eventually turn up, but they need to start training," Cooper stressed.
Several Rebels players from last year have been training with the Grafton Ghosts, but Cooper said her understanding is they have not signed with the cross river rival and she was hopeful of them returning to the fold.
In other news this year's Daily Examiner Shield competition will be expanded.
The Rebels committee, who run the popular event, have approached various primary schools with a view to fielding junior teams with the winning school collecting $500.
This year's competition will comprise junior, Under-14 and open sides.