League clubs kick off 09 season
GRAFTON rugby league clubs have celebrated the oncoming kick off to this season's Northern Rivers Rugby League (NRRL) competition with gala nights on opposite banks of the Clarence River last Friday night.
The Grafton Rhinos and the Grafton Ghosts are less than a week away from the season's curtain raiser, but the grit and toil of another campaign was forgotten for one night amongst the cheers and well wishes of club supporters and sponsors.
The Australian Hotel and the Albion Hotel were both attended by more than a hundred people as the clubs previewed jersey's, named captains, unveiled new signings and honoured their sponsors.
Rhino's media and football manager Tony Stackhouse said the night was the perfect way to begin the new season.
“The basic aim of the night was to introduce the new strip ... it has slightly changed from last year,” he said.
“We have about 60 individual jersey sponsors ... we have done extremely well with sponsorship this year.
“We also talked about the new ground of McKittrick Park which I think looks superb.”
With a budding new generation of players coming through the Rhino's ranks and an experienced core of established stars to guide them, Stackhouse is eager to see the Rhino's rampage through the competition.
“I was extremely impressed with our trial against Lower Clarence,” he said.
“I was very impressed with some of the younger players, who are some fast lads, who have moved up from the under 18's.
“And having Xavier Sullivan and the Mercy boys there as well, this will be a dramatically different team.”
ACROSS the river at the Albion Hotel, the Grafton Ghosts season launch was also in full swing, with the club 'raring to go' for the season opener against Cudgen on Good Friday.
“It was a good night had by all,” Ghosts player manager Mark Hall said.
“We had a lot of sponsors and a lot of supporters in attendance.”
Only just pipped by a point in last year's grand final and with a very successful off season player recruitment drive, the Ghosts will be once again aiming for the pinnacle this season.
“We have had a few additions like Aaron Taylor, Josh Donohoe, Jamie Want, Dave Emmott and Liam Bland ... and we will have three (first grade, reserves and under-18s) strong teams for the 2009 season,” Hall said.
“We haven't played for three weeks but the intense program put in place has compensated for the lack of match time.”