HIGH STAKES: South Grafton Rebels coach Craig Youngjohns is ready to take on a new challenge of bush football and he has a simple philosophy to do it.
HIGH STAKES: South Grafton Rebels coach Craig Youngjohns is ready to take on a new challenge of bush football and he has a simple philosophy to do it. Matthew Elkerton

Meet the man ready to rebuild the Rebels

RUGBY LEAGUE: As a dedicated group of players weave their way between a tight grouping of training poles, Craig Youngjohns looks on with admiration.

Apart from a raised breathing rate - courtesy of his own attempt at the recent shuttle sprints - the new South Grafton coach is filled with joy as he observes the building foundations to a successful Group 2 season.

A stranger among the flock of faces in red and white, Youngjohns has quickly made himself at home among the playing group.

And he is quickly garnering their respect, which is evident in the fact more than 30 players showed up for a pre-season session despite the season not kicking off for another six months.

Youngjohns brings a professional approach to his tenure at the bush footy club after more than a decade-and-a-half in the Wynnum-Manly coaching system.

It was one of the major reasons he was the first name on the Rebels hit list after first choice Tye Ingebrigtsen pulled the pin before his expected arrival last month.

"I have only been down a few weeks, I moved down from Brisbane,” Youngjohns said. "I'm happy with my early time at the club. (The players) are putting the effort in already and it seems like a lot of the boys want to start the pre-season on the right foot.

"We are just waiting for a few more numbers, but it is still early days.”

Youngjohns has also taken many lessons from his time working with current NRL coach Paul Green - when they took Wynnum-Manly to the Intrust Super Cup premiership together in 2012 - as well as a few high-profile mentors.

"I have been fortunate enough to have a few coaching mentors over the years including Shane McNally, who coached in England for a number of years, and current Australian assistant coach Michael Hagan who is a close friend of mine,” Youngjohns said.

"Those guys have given a lot to me over the years, and I have been quite fortunate to learn from them. I have taken heed from how they operate and it has made my coaching career quite successful in that regard.”

As for the biggest lesson he learned from all three, well it's rather simple.

"The biggest thing I have learnt is to keep it simple,” he said. "Once you get the basics right, you can get the guys playing for each other. But they need to have a level of trust in you, to know you are on board with them.

"That trust takes time to develop, but that is one of the areas I work really hard on. I need to also develop the players, this is not all about winning. This is about turning these footballers not just into outstanding players but also outstanding men and women who are willing to give back to their community.”

The Rebels are looking for a resurgence in form after the first grade side missed out on the Group 2 finals series following three seasons of grand final appearances.

But it is the culture of the club, developed by previous coaches Dallas Waters and Ron Gordon, that Youngjohns wants to build upon.

"This is all new to me, it is going to be a challenge, but I am excited to take it head on,” he said. "I just want to get 100 per cent from my players, and to give them 100 per cent of me in return.”

Youngjohns will work alongside reserve grade coach Josh Nagle, as well as under 18s and ladies league tag coaches Ron Gordon and Heidi Dalton.

The Rebels will have two more weeks of pre-season before they break for Christmas.



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