ON THE BALL: South Grafton Rebels Kieron Johnson-Heron gets a pass away at the Hoey Moey Tooheys Coffs Coast 9s on Saturday.
ON THE BALL: South Grafton Rebels Kieron Johnson-Heron gets a pass away at the Hoey Moey Tooheys Coffs Coast 9s on Saturday. Sam Flanagan

Positive signs for South Grafton Rebels at Coffs Coast 9s

RUGBY LEAGUE: There is a distinct aura of optimism surrounding the South Grafton Rebels this year after a positive display at the Coffs Harbour 9s competition at the weekend.

New coach Craig Youngjohn had nothing but praise for the squad and was buoyed by both the action and attitude that was on display by a lot of new recruits.

"I was really impressed by the effort by the group, it was a lot of fun and a really positive run," he said

"I have been very proud of the boys effort so far and I think we have some outstanding players."

In a strong sign the players had responded in a positive way to the new coach, the team was building on the work they had done at training.

"We have been really working on our fitness and in the late stages of day we just kept coming back at them," he said.

"We also kept our shape late on and I was really impressed with the little one percent efforts that the boys maintained right up until the end."

The tournament was the perfect opportunity for the players to improve as a team and gave the new recruits a chance to impress.

"It really allowed the some of the boys to get to know each others game," said Mr Youngjohn.

"We really focused on the new contracts and there were a lot of positives coming out of the effort by the new guys."

The new coach singled out a few of his charges with extra praise and is excited about what the new season will bring once the team really gels.

"I was impressed with Hughie Stanley and Lionel Williams in particular," he said

"I'm absolutely looking forward to the year ahead, there are a lot of positives in the group and I think we will be really competitive

The game against the Woolgoolga Seahorses will be the first opportunity for the whole group to play together and Mr Youngjohn highlighted the need to build on the work that had been put in so far.

"We had a few injuries before the 9s so some of the regular players were rested. There will probably be two guys still out with injury but we we should be almost at full strength.

"Woolgoolga at Bellingen will be our first good hit up and it should be a strong showing," he said

"We just need to keep pushing and increase a bit of action around the play the ball area."

This weekend's fixture at Bellingen is part of the Matthew Locke MG charity weekend, in memory of the distinguished soldier, born in Bellingen, who was tragically killed serving in Afghanistan in 2007.

Since his death, his family have organised a rugby league charity match every year between the Magpies and the Army team in memory of him.

Now in its 11th year, over $120,000 has been raised for a number of charities and sporting groups including Legacy and Junior Rugby League. This year money raised will be split between Soldier On, The Grub Club and Bellingen Magpies.

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