Sully? to rescue
By TONY WHITE
IN a major boost for the troubled South Grafton Rebels, experienced drillmaster Phil Sullivan has agreed to coach the club for the 2006 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League season which kicks off this Sunday.
Sullivan, nicknamed 'Sully', agreed to terms earlier this week after being persuaded by NRL Gold Coast Titans head coach John Cartwright. Sullivan has enjoyed a long-term friendship with Cartwright since coaching him as a junior at St Mary's, Sydney, in 1983.
The Titans coaching staff, including Cartwright, came to the aid of the Rebels following intervention by Australian Rugby League chief executive Geoff Carr after the shock departure of Ray Mercy earlier this month.
This season the Rebels will field only a reserve grade and Under-18 side, but club officials and Sullivan remain optimistic of possibly fielding a first grade team 'somewhere down the track'.
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Sullivan's coaching credentials stretch back to the early 1980s as player-coach and coach with stints with Brothers in Penrith (1984), Windsor (1985-86), Narooma (1987), joining Tim Sheens' coaching staff in 1988 in his first season with Canberra Raiders, coaching Fulham in England and the St Mary's Metropolitan Cup team from 1994-97.
While living in Coolangatta, Sullivan has been working in the Grafton district as a juvenile justice officer for the past six years during the week and returning home on weekends.
In a touch of irony, Sullivan had been living with Des and Trish Clark, former proprietors of the Albion Hotel, major sponsors of cross-river rivals, the Grafton Ghosts.
However, it was his friendship with Cartwright that led to Sullivan taking up the cudgel with the Rebels.
"I was sounded out earlier about the job but was a bit reluctant to take up full-time coaching again. Then last weekend I caught up with John (Cartwright) at the trials at Mullumbimby and ended up saying 'yes' after talking to the Rebels committee.
"I don't want to see any club fold regardless of what happened in the past. South Grafton are a proud club with 90-odd years history."
Sullivan had his first training run with the Rebels on Tuesday night.
"I addressed the players and committee together," he said. "I layed down some of the guidelines. Like any walk of life there are rules and I've got my rules. We all know where we stand."