FANS ON THE HILL: These Rhino supporters were stoked with the start of the local derby between the Ghosts and Rhinos.
FANS ON THE HILL: These Rhino supporters were stoked with the start of the local derby between the Ghosts and Rhinos. Daily Examiner/Terry Deefholts

Cashing in on Valley footy revival

A STRONG local rivalry between two 'professional' rugby league clubs has been hailed as the saviour of the sport after another record crowd packed out McKittrick Park for the first Grafton derby of the season.

An estimated 3500 'well-behaved' people were on hand to watch the Grafton Rhinos fall to its city rival, the Grafton Ghosts, in a physical and entertaining match on Sunday.

In a nod to the healthy state of league in the area, the Rhinos club grossed $26,500 from the combined efforts of the gate, canteen and bar, slipping past last year's mark by nearly $4000.

Grafton Rhinos media officer Tony Stackhouse said the resuscitation of league was a credit to both clubs, especially after the messy merger feud leading up to last season.

“In respect to the merger, three years ago we would have been lucky to get three men and their dog to a game,” he said.

“Both clubs were at the bottom of the table with a couple of wins apiece.

“The rivalry is a good and healthy thing.”

Stackhouse said the Rhinos club was indebted to the hard working volunteers who made the catering and assisting of the record-strong crowd run like clock work.

“The canteen was going gangbusters ... it was all heads down and bums up in there,” he said.

“We had a TV in there with the game on it but they still didn't get the chance to take a look.”

At a time when the NRL lurches from one sex scandal to another, the fans who flooded through the gates on the weekend spoke volumes of the rejuvenated path local league now finds itself treading.

“I think the professionalism of the clubs in the Clarence Valley has helped a lot,” Stackhouse said.

“All the players have signed codes of conduct.

“And we have the (Lower Clarence) Magpies involved in the domestic abuse campaign.”



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