Ladies take centre stage on derby day
RUGBY LEAGUE: It does not get any bigger than a local derby and for ladies league tag players Carmel Walker and Elle Moss, it is a game they have been waiting their entire lives for.
Walker was in a Rebels shirt before she could walk, and grew up on the sidelines cheering on her father Lewis Walker when he played for the Rebels first grade side back in the 1990s.
Even as a kid on the sidelines, Walker understood how much a local derby meant to the two clubs and the town.
"The love of the Rebels was sort of ingrained in me from a real young age," she said. "I was one of those kids that would always be at training with Dad.
"We used to kick the footy on the sideline as the seniors were running around. We loved it, you used to feel part of it all."
But it has been a long time coming before Walker was able to pull on the South Grafton Rebels jersey herself - when the opportunity came, she was not going to pass it up.
Through her connection with the club, mainly through brother Oral Monaghan who played in the Rebels 2015 premiership-winning side and partner Karl Woodley, Walker had been playing OzTag with Rebels coach Heidi Dalton when Group 2 first announced the formation of league tag.
"When Heidi first came to us and said we were putting in a league tag team, I think I was the first to put my hand up.
"I was so keen," she said.
"I have been playing football all my life, I love league, and this was just an opportunity to continue that passion."
While she had to wait an extra year before the Ghosts came into the league tag competition, for Grafton captain Elle Moss, her life in league mirrors a lot of Walker's upbringing.
Moss's brother Joel has been a mainstay of the Ghosts' club since the junior ranks and, while she had been away from home for seven years, she jumped at the opportunity when the side was formed.
While the Ghosts and the Rebels have already met once this season in the opening round - a clinical 30-4 win for the Rebels - both girls agree this game will be nothing like the first round.
With the Rebels and Ghosts sitting first and second on the ladder respectively, both girls know it will be a thriller.
"We are definitely not the same Ghosts girls we were in that game," Moss said. "That was our first ever game and it was a big learning curve for us.
"For most of our side we had never played league tag before, so we were just learning the game more than anything. We have gelled a lot since that game as a team, and we are just really enjoying our footy at the moment."
The Ghosts have been on a six-game winning streak since dropping the first two games of the season, and they will need all that form when they attempt to end the unbeaten streak of the Rebels women.
It has been a season built on defence for Dalton's side, having only let in four tries across the eight rounds.
But as Walker knows from years of watching on the sidelines, even the best-laid plans go out the window.
"The derby game is really important to me, this is the biggest game of the year bar none," she said. "I am really nervous because this is the Ghosts and the Rebels. It is the biggest game of the season."
While the Rebels have proved impenetrable this season, Moss says her side may just have the key to unlocking it but she isn't willing to give up too many secrets.
"We know how to complete a game, we know what we need to do," she said. "We need to leave the emotion of the game in the back of our minds, complete our sets, and get the job done."
BATTLE OF THE RIVER: Grafton Ghosts v South Grafton Rebels at Frank McGuren Field. League tag kicks off at 11am followed by Under 18s, reserve grade and first grade at 2.30pm.