New halves duo want to go back to back
RUGBY LEAGUE: Despite the sudden departure of Premiership winning halves pairing Ant Cowan and Mal Webster Jnr to the Orara Valley Axemen - South Grafton Rebels coach Ron Gordon believes he has a dynamic duo ready to fight for their title defence.
Rebels Under-18 sensation and regular first grader in 2015 Nick McGrady will slot into the number 7 jersey vacated by Cowan with recent arrival Kieren Stewart slotting in beside him.
Stewart has just come off back to back premierships with the Ghosts Reserve Grade side and has had several stints in the top grade in past seasons.
While they are relatively inexperienced halves Gordon said there is enough experience to lean on around the team.
"Desirably it is always handy to have an old head in there to direct play," Gordon said. "But Rhys [Walters] is really good at that from his position at dummy half and he will take a lot of that on.
"During the trial match against Northern United Rhys did take over that role which allowed Nick and Kieren to play a lot of their natural running game."
Both McGrady and Stewart tend to play improvised razzle dazzle football but will need to work within structures created by the coach, which he believes are working well so far.
"This close to the season kicking off it was pretty disappointing to lose Ant," Gordon said.
"We built a lot of our structure and set plays around Ant.
"This means we will just need to head back to the drawing board and put together new structures.
"The halves on the weekend did not stray too far away from the game plan which is a good sign."
Jade Duroux lined up at fullback against Northern United and is expected to put his stamp on the position for this season.
Duroux has been a regular feature in the South Grafton Under-18s ranks and featured in a handful of first grade matches last season.
Since taking over the top job Gordon has made it clear that his intentions were to have an all-local side playing for the Rebels.
"What I set out to do from day dot was to have a local side," he said. "And this year we are predominantly all Clarence Valley boys.
"There was a lot of good signs there during the trial match.
"Xavier Sullivan really impressed on the weekend. He's spent the last few years in and out of football but he lit it up the other day and played a full 80 minutes."
South Grafton Rebels have a bye in Round 1 but will take the field at home against Sawtell on April 10.