Rebels roll back the years at 90th reunion

South Grafton Rugby League Football club supporters provided a packed house to honour the Rebels 90th anniversary re-union at South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club on Saturday.

The official motto for the evening was 'Celebrating 90 years, from 1915 to 2005' and the longest-affiliated player present was Reg Goodger, a regular South Grafton first grader before joining the armed forces in World War Two.

Also in attendance was Maurie Graham, who as a teenager played fullback for South Grafton's undefeated side of 1949 and went on to win several premierships in rugby union with the famous Gordon Club in Sydney.

Dennis Pye, the player with the most competition appearances with the club, was also present. Pye turned out 309 times for the Rebels, many of them as first grade captain.

Official guests for the evening included chief executive officer for the ARL Geoff Carr and State of Origin winger Ricky Walford, both former players with St George Club.

They were joined by the Northern Rivers Rugby League executive president Robin Harley, secretary Doug Harrison and treasurer Gary Williams.

They were supported by other guest speakers for the evening, Max Godbee, Ron Hambly, strapper John Cooper, first grade captain/coach Stevie Kirby and dual premiership winner with the club (1972, 1975) Ray Ide.

Four clubs were formed to introduce rugby league to the Clarence in 1915 and South Grafton is the only one of the four still in existence.

Carr said there would be few other clubs registered with NSW Country Rugby League which could match the long history of the South Grafton club.

Carr learned his football in Grafton before going on to play several years of first grade with St George.

One of the most respected figures of rugby league he has managed a number of national teams in Australia and overseas.

He introduced special guest for the evening, Ricky Walford, who said his football careerstarted in the western NSW town of Walgett on the banks of the Namoi River.

He weighed just 77kg in the 1990s when he was contracted to play with Eastern Suburbs subsequently playing for North Sydney before transferring to St George, where he played most of his football.

Walford said he had to wait until after moving to Sydney to be chosen to play for NSW Country, and he was thrilled to be also selected for the NSW Country State of Origin side.

Robin Harley, who played his Under-18 football with South Lismore and went on to play for his home town Kyogle and as a Group one representative, said he had always admired the quality of players in the South Grafton club.

He recalled that in 1978 the club, facing financial difficulties, decided that players would not be paid during that season.

Reaction among players was divided, some favouring a player protest, but club stalwart and leading player Ron Hambly swung the mood of the players with the comment 'We may not be getting any money for playing, but no visiting club will beat us to take a winner's bonus out of McKittrick park, either'.

During the evening a special presentation was made by club captain Xavier Sullivan to longserving club officer Barbara Armstrong.

Guests also voiced their appreciation for the efforts of the organisers of the reunion, led by club secretary Janita Cooper.

Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Ritchie Williamson.

An auction of rugby league memorabilia during the evening by 'auctioneer' Ian Preston, raised $1500 for the club.

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