Explosive centre battle awaits in clash with Bangalow
THE Australian Hotel Grafton Redmen are preparing for a potentially season-defining blockbuster against Bangalow at Shultz Oval tomorrow.
With just three regular Far North Coast Rugby Union season rounds remaining, Grafton is one of three clubs engaged in a desperate scramble for the all-important fourth position on the ladder.
Both Grafton and Bangalow sit in fifth spot, seven-points behind Lennox Head, who will have their hands full containing an in-form Ballina side at Quays Reserve, Ballina.
Grafton is still recovering from a gruelling encounter against Lennox last week and it won't be any easier against a new-look Rebels outfit.
The Rebels have recruited two Samoan centres and according to Bangalow's caretaker-coach Neil Moran, Frank Lilomaiava and Bob Mataia have given his side a new lease on life.
"They were both on our radar earlier in the year and thanks to the new road works we've been able to secure their signatures for the rest of the season," Moran said earlier in the week.
"We've been struggling out wide and it's nice to have more options. They both hook in on the field and they've added a lot of spark at training.
"They always turn up with a smile on their face and have the right attitude."
Mataia, who started the season with Logan City in the Brisbane competition, has the frame to cause plenty of havoc in attack.
Standing 185cm tall and weighing in at over 100kg, Mataia has been in devastating form for the Rebels.
And with Grafton centre pairing of Tom Ellem and Keaton Ingram also in sensational form this season it sets up an explosive duel out wide.
For Grafton coach Ray Collie, fitting the correct pieces into the Redmen's backline jigsaw puzzle this week has become trickier with regular halfbacks Nathan McPherson and Brett Graham both unavailable.
Second grade halfback Simon Robinson has been given the task of filling the No.9 role after impressive performances in the lower grades.
Grafton's semi-finals chances in second grade could also hinge on today's outcome against Bangalow, while in President's Cup Grafton faces a difficult road trip to Kyogle.