TOUGH AS NAILS: South Grafton Rebels' dummy-half Rhys Walters played more than a third of the season with a cracked rib.
TOUGH AS NAILS: South Grafton Rebels' dummy-half Rhys Walters played more than a third of the season with a cracked rib. Matthew Elkerton

One tough season culminates in history for Walters

RUGBY LEAGUE: Tomorrow's local derby grand final is the culmination of one of the toughest seasons of Rhys Walters' career.

The South Grafton Rebels' ruck general, who has won grand finals with both local sides, is itching to get on to the field, just to put a long season behind him.

Walters started the Rebels' title defence season on the road, with his two-year-old daughter Ella undergoing surgery in Brisbane he was travelling every week to see her.

"My daughter had a procedure on her back done,” he said. "She was up there for six weeks, she couldn't leave.

"I would work three days, and then spend a couple of days up there with her.

"I was training once a week, getting back when I could. It was hard because she was getting procedures done once a week.”

Walters still managed to travel back each week for the Rebels' first grade side but the toll of the constant back and forth journeys was tough.

With the added pressures of home life creeping on to the field, Walters relinquished his proud captaincy of the team to close mate Grant Stevens.

Rebel captain Rhys Walters holds up the trophy after winning the Group 2 Country Rugby League 1st Grade grand final between South Grafton Rebels and Coffs Comets at McKittrick Park South Grafton on Sunday 23 August, 2015. Final score Rebels way 46-18. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner
Rebel captain Rhys Walters holds up the trophy after winning the Group 2 Country Rugby League 1st Grade grand final between South Grafton Rebels and Coffs Comets at McKittrick Park South Grafton on Sunday 23 August, 2015. Final score Rebels way 46-18. Photo Debrah Novak / The Daily Examiner Debrah Novak

"[Ella's health] was always on my mind, she always is,” he said as he looked down at her face tattooed on his arm. "I wanted to be here to play football, but I also desperately wanted to be up there with her.”

"I was distracted that is for sure. It definitely took it out of me. Mentally and physically I was just drained from the travelling.

"But once I saw the smile on her face it was all worth it.”

Even as Ella returned home to recuperate the problems turned to on field as the dummy-half battled through weeks of pain.

In the first Battle of the River local derbies this season at McKittrick Park, the dummy-half landed on the boot of Mitch Lollback cracking three of his ribs.

An injury that would normally sit players on the sidelines for about four weeks, Walters used the Group general bye to overcome the injury.

"I felt something go, but it wasn't until Sunday that I was in the horrors,” he said.

"I had the week off for the bye, so I thought I'll give myself a chance here.

"It got to the next Thursday and I didn't think I was going to play, but I just jammed some Voltaren into me and hoped for the best.”

Rebels' general Rhys Walters has won grand finals on both sides of the Clarence. He was in the Ghosts' 2010 and 2011 premiership winning sides. Pictured here making a tackle with Ghosts' current captain coach Ben McLennan in the 2011 decider.
Rebels' general Rhys Walters has won grand finals on both sides of the Clarence. He was in the Ghosts' 2010 and 2011 premiership winning sides. Pictured here making a tackle with Ghosts' current captain coach Ben McLennan in the 2011 decider. Adam Hourigan

The Rebels' general played most of the middle stages of the season despite the injury, but at times it had him concerned.

"It was painful for a while there, some games I just questioned why am I doing this,” he said.

"But I just did not want to let the boys down and I just hate being away from the footy field.”

While he might not appear nervous on the surface, the dummy half is bottling his feelings ahead of what will be one of his biggest moments on a football field.

Apart from the historic local derby clash Walters has a chance at making a piece of his own history, if the Rebels are to win he would become one of the first Clarence Valley players to win back-to-back premierships with two different clubs.



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