OPINION: Redmen on the rough end of season draw
WITH the Mid North Coast 2017 rugby season just around the corner, Grafton Redmen will once again face a tough task featuring in this year's finals series.
But has it got a lot to do with player depth, a rugby league stronghold in the Clarence Valley or Grafton's geographical location?
For years Grafton has struggled to attract class rugby players whereas towns located on the coastal strip appear to have no problem luring talented players to strengthen their playing roster.
The close proximity of world-class beaches, employment opportunities and services makes these coastal hamlets very appealing to rugby union journeymen.
It's no coincidence Hastings Valley Vikings, Port Macquarie Pirates and Coffs Snappers continue to dominate come semi-finals time.
Last season Grafton narrowly missed the play-offs, a gallant effort considering they struggled to field the same team each week.
Even with the second Grafton bridge and Pacific Highway bypass under construction, the Redmen have not benefited from an influx of potential rugby stocks to bolster their playing ranks.
The Mid North Coast representative side is littered with players from the "big three”, confirming it has the arsenal to remain at the top of the competition ladder.
With the exception of Kempsey, who were runners-up to Hastings in last year's decider, sides failing to attract big-name players will always be under the pump.
A further concern for the Redmen is the draw Mid North Coast rugby has dished out this season.
Grafton has arguably the best fan base in the competition, but the lack of home games and large gaps between fixtures is certainly not ideal for players, sponsors or supporters.
Grafton hosts Coffs Harbour Snappers in round 1 with their next home game scheduled three weeks later.
In round 6 the Redmen are at home to Hastings Vikings but unfortunately fans will have to wait a further six weeks before the Redmen run out on home soil.
Sporting draws are always a bone of contention.
It's hard to please everyone.
But six weeks without a home game will surely have a negative effect on the club and the supporter base.