Rebels big-man boost for tough roadtrip
RUGBY LEAGUE: South Grafton Rebels coach Ron Gordon is ready to put a disrupted start to the Group 2 first grade season behind the club as they head into the toughest challenge of the season.
The addition of the Rebels' newest enforcer Sione Tonga this week allows Gordon to finally name a full side for the first time this season.
It has been a baptism of fire for the Rebels, facing the top three - Grafton Ghosts, Coffs Harbour Comets and the Panthers in the first five rounds.
But after a week off the field with the bye last weekend, the Rebels are recharged and ready to "get back on track".
"We just seem to have bumped into all the tough teams to start the season," Gordon said. "It doesn't faze us though, you have to beat the best to be the best.
"I think having the weekend off gave the boys a chance to reflect on where we are and what we want to get out of this season. We are confident we can go down there to give it a really good crack."
The clash at Rex Hardaker Oval will be the red and white debut of Tonga, the younger brother of former Canterbury Bulldogs star Willie Tonga.
The hard-hitting front rower joins the Rebels after successful stints at Ballina Seagulls and Brisbane Natives, and was also a catalyst in the club's bid for five-eighth Jerome Green.
"We actually signed (Sione) to the club first when I was looking for a bit of extra forwards coverage," Gordon said.
"He has had plenty of experience on the field, he played in that Northern United side that was beaten by Lower Clarence in 2009. He has definitely still got it.
"Unfortunately he has a bit of family issues that have kept him from coming down just yet, but having him here really completes our roster."
Another front-rower who has only just rejoined the Rebels, Xavier Sullivan, has made a big impact since returning a fortnight ago.
"He is just one of those guys who lifts the blokes around him," Gordon said. "He will back up after reserve grade."
Coopers get first chance at former club
TOMORROW'S clash against Sawtell will be the first time former South Grafton juniors Austin and Lewis Cooper will meet their former club on field.
The eldest of the pair cut a lean figure when he was first spotted in the Clarence against the Grafton Ghosts last month.
After dropping a further 20 kilograms in the off-season, Cooper is having one of his best seasons on the left edge for the Panthers.
"I am really enjoying life down here, it has been a massive change and not just on the field," Cooper said. "There is no hard feelings with the Rebels, we loved pulling on the red and white, and can't wait to meet them on the field."
Lewis Cooper will back up from the Panthers Under 18s ranks and has been powerful off the bench in first grade.
REBELS SIDE: 1. Izack Smidt, 2. Ant Skinner, 3. Nic McGrady, 4. Luke French, 5. Aaron Taylor, 6. Jerome Green, 7. Kieren Johnson-Heron, 8. Karl Woodley, 9. Kieren Stewart, 10. Jeff Skeen, 11. Grant Brown, 12. Josh Harris, 13. Luke Welch, 14. Dwayne Duke, 15. Sione Tonga