Grafton clubs on the move south to Group 2

Rival captains Grant Stevens (South Grafton Rebels) and Ryan Farrell (Grafton Ghosts) are almost certain to be facing each other across Group 2 enemy lines in 2014.
Rival captains Grant Stevens (South Grafton Rebels) and Ryan Farrell (Grafton Ghosts) are almost certain to be facing each other across Group 2 enemy lines in 2014. Jojo Newby

GRAFTON'S two rugby league teams should be confirmed as Group 2's newest clubs by next month.

Grafton Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels presented their case for a southern move at the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League group meeting at Lismore Workers on Monday night.

They had to gain majority support from fellow clubs and NRRRL management for permission to negotiate and apply to Group 2 for the move to happen.

While almost all clubs and several management members expressed disappointment in the Ghosts and Rebels' desire to leave the NRRRL, they unanimously supported the motion.

Rumours about a move to the Coffs Harbour-based Group 2 competition have followed the Ghosts and Rebels for years.

Now, it is finally a reality.

The Ghosts have been driving the case for change over the past 12 months, with management, players and fans talking of the move for most of that time.

In fact, several players were talking openly about the new challenges before the NRRRL season had finished.

A busy Ghosts president Neil Payne said he was looking forward to the move.

"I think I've had more phone calls than Tony Abbott this morning," Payne said.

"Everyone is looking forward to it - the players and the committee.

"The idea of playing someone new has given us a lot of motivation. It breathes new life into their (Group 2) competition as well.

"We've already had players tell us they'd be keen to join us if we play Group 2, and a few Coffs Harbour-based businesses that operate in the Grafton area have been in contact about potential sponsorship."

The Rebels have not been as openly vocal about the move, but president Ray Taunton mentioned the move several times during the season.

He was planning to talk to new players and coaches throughout the latter half of the year, but could not give them any guarantee as to where they would be playing.

Now he has confirmation it should make recruitment a tad simpler.

"It does for sure. It's very difficult approaching players, coaches and even sponsors without being able to tell them where we're playing," Taunton said.

"Now they won't have as far to travel for games and that goes for supporters too. We might have a few bigger crowds make their way up to McKittrick Park.

"We'll be putting our heads down now and getting on with it."

NRRRL president Brian Rix did not want either club to leave.

Earlier this year he said there was no chance the Ghosts or Rebels would leave the NRRRL while he was president, but that was before the Australian Rugby League Commission declared its official position in regards to the border.

While he does not want to see the clubs leave the NRRRL, Rix relaxed his position for what he described as the "betterment of rugby league".

"We're quite disappointed they're leaving but it's probably best for rugby league," Rix said.

"A lot of clubs didn't want to see them leave but supported the move.

"If they find the grass isn't greener on the other side they will be welcomed back with open arms."

Rix said the NRRRL would work with the remaining 10 clubs to build the strongest competition possible.

"We will work with 10 clubs and prepare for the arrival of Cudgen and Bilambil in 2015," Rix said.

"Lower Clarence Magpies are staying put and they'll work to get back into the black.

"We wish the Ghosts and Rebels well."

Topics:  country rugby league grafton ghosts group 2 northern rivers regional rugby league nrrrl rugby league south grafton rebels