Stars come out to play in sevens

By TONY WHITE

GRAFTON Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels will field teams in the Orara Valley Axemen's 2005 rugby league sevens tournament next month that has attracted an international line up including Brad Fittler and Ryan Girdler.

Registration for the January 22-23 competition at Coramba closes today.

Organisers are expecting upwards of 24 teams to enter.

Axemen fan and club sponsor, Oscar winning actor Russell Crowe, has underwritten the event that offers $15,000 in prizemoney.

Former Australian captain Fittler and Girdler are expected to be named in Spud's Barbarians, headed by another former international, Mark Carroll.

Other well known NRL players in the line up include Robbie O'Davis, Mark Geyer, Cliff Lyons, Brad Mackay, Rod Wishart, Nik Kosef, Sean Garlick, Owen Cunningham, Jack Elsgood and Jason Death.

The touring American team, the Tomahawks, are definite starters as are a team from Fiji and organisers are hoping New Zealand sevens champions, Hibiscus Coast Raiders will also participate.

Other entries recieved include Sydney University, Byron Bay, the Australian Lebanese, Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Sawtell, Kempsey, the Axemen and possibly a team from the North Sydney Bears including Billy Moore and Gary Larson.

"We're rapt to get so many teams at our inaugural tournament," Orara Valley club president Kevin Elks said.

"We're hoping the weather is kind and we get good crowds."

Teams will be seeded into different pools.

"Everyone plays three games each on Saturday (January 22) then the finals will take place on Sunday."

A charity fundraiser, the Big Men of League dinner, will be held at Coffs Harbour Catholic Club on Friday, January 21, with special guests including NRL CEO David Gallop, former leading referee, Bill Harrigan and Noel Kelly.

Ghosts coach Matt McKee expects to have a strong line-up for the tournament with Craig Nipperess, new signings Wes Torrens and Dave Briggs, Des Teale and Warwick Brown spearheading the side.

McKee expects to name the final squad after a training run on January 6.

Rebels coach Steve Kirby said his team will be finalised on January 13.

"Ray and Ken Mercy, Xavier Sullivan, Walter Donnelly, Doug Walker and myself will definitely play and I'll probably use a few young fellas from the Under-18s," Kirby said.

The Rebels registration day for next season will take place on Jan- uary 8 at J J Lawrence Oval.

Lower Clarence Magpies did not enter a team in the sevens event.

The Magpies will be out in force at the New Years Day celebrations at Brooms Head on Saturday when the club will attempt to win its fourth straight tug-'o-war title.



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