Rebels and Ghosts reignite rivalry as captain faces old team
FOR years Rhys Walters helped Grafton Ghosts heap misery on the cross-town rivals. But since 2013 he has called McKittrick Park home, and now as captain of South Grafton Rebels is ready to return to dose when the two sides face off at Frank McGuren Field this Sunday.
The fearless leader agreed that years of wearing the underdog tag meant Rebels needed little motivation to turn up for the local derby.
"I'd say there's probably more passion over here," Walters said.
"Ghosts have been up the top of the tree for so long now, and this year we're only just starting to put it together and build towards something."
The last time the two sides met Ghosts dished out a 96- 6 thrashing in the final round of 2014.
The Ghosts have not lost the local derby since the infamous "rumble in the jungle" on July 26 in 2009.
On that day the Rhinos were not given "a ghost of a chance" of victory but, after an "old-fashioned stink" in the 14th minute saw three players from either side handed marching orders, they went on to win 40-36.
The opposition banner has transformed back to South Grafton Rebels and a number of new faces have this weekend's derby in particular shaping up like no other.
But some faces remain the same. Current Rebels second rower Dwayne Duke was in the thick of the action in 2009, scoring two solo tries. Grafton Ghosts captain-coach Ben McLennan was "damaging in both attack and defence".
"It doesn't get much bigger," McLennan said of the local derby. "It doesn't matter who's on top of the ladder, everyone's up for it and full of beans ready to rip in. Tensions flare. There is always going to be niggle."
Several have switched allegiances - Walters and Luke Welsch now play for Rebels, while Joel Moss, who scored twice for Rhinos, and Tim Tilse now wear the Ghost logo on their chest. But Walters assures there are no mixed feelings on game day.
"If you see the boys around town you always say g'day, but once you cross that strip it's a different story," the 25-year-old said.
Rebels are undefeated this season while Ghosts lost away from home for the second time last Sunday, 24-22 to Macksville. Importantly, their home ground remains a fortress.
"The points table means nothing when you come up against them," Walters said. "It's been a while since they've lost back to back, so they're deserved favourite."
Who will win the local derby at McGuren Field this Sunday?
This poll ended on 31 May 2015.
Grafton Ghosts will continue to reign supreme
South Grafton Rebels will win for the first time since 2009
Match abandoned after police intervention
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
GHOSTS' LAST LOCAL DERBY DEFEAT
Sunday, 26th July, 2009
RHINOS 40 (Dwayne Duke 2, Joel Moss 2, Aaron Martin, Luke Worthing, Xavier Sullivan tries; Worthing 6 goals) defeated GHOSTS 36 (Grant Stevens 3, Aaron Taylor 2, Nat Sewell tries; Aaron Taylor 6 goals) at Frank McGuren Field.