Is local derby losing its aura?
THE local derby.
That fiery encounter between two teams on the opposite side of the river.
You know, those games that attract the biggest crowds of the season, where players from both teams fight tooth and nail for supremacy on the footy field.
We get the next instalment this weekend when the Ghosts and Rhinos meet again.
In the past these games have been littered with illegalities, stories of on-field heroics and, above all, they have been known for unbridled passion.
All the talk leading up to the clash between the Rebels/Rhinos and the Ghosts was about who would be left standing after 80 minutes of tough and at times brutal football.
Who will ever forget the day when the Rhinos went into the local derby as rank outsiders against a red-hot Ghosts outfit and came away with a come-from-behind 40-36 victory?
The image of an orange-haired Dwayne Duke and Ghosts' tough man Nat Sewell with their noses almost pressed together will be forever etched in the minds of fans who witnessed a marvellous game of football on that day in 2009.
Ghosts' football manager Joe Kinnane has witnessed many a bloody battle between the two teams, but like most believes the aura has gone from the once much-anticipated clash.
“The games have certainly lost a bit of their aura,” Kinnane, the Ghosts' historian, says.
“The history is not there any more, which is a shame. It used to be the red and white against the blue and white.
“Guys used to look forward to the local derby and came back from injury to play.”
Kinnane remembers as if it was yesterday those characters and hard-nuts who epitomised what the local derby was about. Teams full of standover-merchants, loose cannons and colourful characters.
“Back then teams used to hang images of opposition players on the goal posts and tackle them,” he said. “I remember Bob Kennedy, who played for Easts in Sydney before arriving in Grafton.
“He got sent off four times during the season for his ball-in-all tackling style.
“And there was Greg Thompson – now he was mad.
“He got sent off both times against the Rebels in 1979 and was always fronting the judiciary.
“And Ray ‘Dog' Pereira was a tough abattoir worker who would pick you up and dump you into the turf.”
On Sunday the Ghosts and Rhinos face off at Frank McGuren Field and according to Kinnane games between the two clubs are more important than ever for attracting healthy crowds.
“It's vital for both clubs to get a good gate at their home games, as the financial gains are very important,” he said.
“I remember last year the Rhinos needed to perform well against the Ghosts to make the semi-finals and the Ghosts were desperate to keep their unbeaten record intact.
“It was the last game of the season but I see now the draw has the two sides playing each other within the first six rounds, which can't be good for the game.”
Listed below are two teams from past and present players sure to provide plenty of action on the field, physically and verbally. Players who know what a local derby is all about and what it takes to get the better of your opponent. Hot heads, guys who never gave an inch and some who were just plain mad on the footy field.