Now or never for schoolboy stars
MANY South Grafton and Maclean schoolboys will be chasing a fairytale farewell at Frank McGuren Field tonight.
The Daily Examiner Shield takes place on the eve of HSC exams. For the Year 12 contingent, it will not only be the last time they throw on a school jersey but also the last time they see many of their classmates.
The Shield decider was last held in June in 2013, and this year's edition is at the latest possible date due to earlier clashes with school and club football engagements, and moved from the traditional McKittrick Park venue due to encroaching on the cricket season.
Organiser and South Grafton High coach Matt McKee is relieved the big day is finally here.
"It's been a nightmare," McKee said.
"Now we're playing outside of football season.
"I don't know how to fix the problem. Maybe play it earlier next year.
"It's been a bit of a pain. It will be good just to get it done."
However, the logistical issues haven't downplayed the significance of the inter-school rivalry and McKee will be as keen as any to see his South Grafton Lions ahead on the scoreboard against Maclean Bats in both the Open and Under-14 grand finals.
Fatigue could be a factor with most players having not played in more than a month.
However, match fitness should not be a problem for several Maclean High players, including captain Luke Roberts and five-eighth Jacob Cameron-Clarke, who competed in the NSW Aboriginal Koori Rugby League Knockout at Raymond Terrace on the weekend. Representing a region encompassed by Grafton, Casino, Yamba and Maclean, their side Bulgar Ngaru went down 18-16 to Newcastle All Blacks in the Under-17 grand final on Monday.
Maclean High coach Nathan White said he expected Roberts, who recently penned a deal with Wynnum-Manly Sea Eagles, to play a major part in tonight's schoolboy clash.
"He'll be inspirational to watch," White said.
"He's desperate to win this for Maclean."
"South Grafton will know he's the one to watch."
Both South Grafton High and Maclean High had memorable campaigns in the 2014 University Shield CHS Open Rugby League Knockout.
South Grafton was knocked out 36 to 24 in the round of 16 by eventual champion Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School. Maclean High, meanwhile, reached the quarterfinals before bowing out 74-nil to eventual runners-up Sarah Redfern High.
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