Rebels out to hold fortress in major semi-final
SOUTH Grafton Rebels are determined to maintain McKittrick Park's status as a fortress in 2015.
Such an achievement in today's major semi-final against Coffs Harbour Comets would deliver the Group 2 Rugby League grand final to the venue.
"We have not lost a game there and we want to keep that record intact," Rebels coach Dallas Waters said.
"It is daunting coming to McKittrick Park. Other teams don't like coming here. It is something we pride ourselves on.
"We will do all we can to make sure we get the opportunity to host the grand final here."
One man who can't wait to run out in front of his home fans is Grant Stevens, who comes into a starting second row spot for injured Jeff Skeen.
"Grant is a terrific player in his own right," Waters said. "He will really muscle up and try his best in Jeff's absence."
"Stumpy" Stevens was captain-coach of the Rebels when they re-formed from the Rhinos in 2013 but suffered a long-term knee injury 30 minutes into the opening game against Grafton.
The 26-year-old did not have high personal expectations when he decided to play again this season.
"I thought I'd just help out reserve grade to tell you the truth," Stevens said.
"I was told by two surgeons I probably shouldn't play until I've had a serious knee operation.
"I didn't think I'd get to where I am now and at the moment I'm loving it.
"I know it's come through an injury to Jeff Skeen who's been good for us all season, but I can't wait for Sunday and I'm grateful for the opportunity.
"We've got a lot of big boys up front and if we can get on top of them there it gives room for our quality halves and outside backs to do their job."
Coming onto the vacated seat on the bench is Josh Harris, who returns from a knee injury.
Stevens has watched the red and whites grow into a force since they struggled through 2013.
"The club's come a long way thanks to the way (president) Ray (Taunton) and (vice president) Johnny (Matthews) have handled the situation," he said.
"When they took over the money wasn't great and we struggled for numbers that first year. Last year we got the opportunity to get Dallas on board and the culture of the club's changed a bit."
Meanwhile, Grafton Ghosts' Group 2 first grade premiership defence ended yesterday when they were beaten 28-22 by Nambucca Heads in the minor-semi-final at Frank McGuren Gield. South Grafton's reserve grade team survived for at least another week, beating Coffs Harbour 38-8 in the minor semi-final, while the Rebels also won Under-18s against Nambucca 30-4.
REBELS FIRST GRADE
1. Roy Bell
2. Thomas McGrady
3. Chris Carr
4. Hughie Stanley
5. Oral Monaghan
6. Mal Webster
7. Ant Cowan
8. Jordan Walker
9. Rhys Walters (c)
10. Steve Walker
11. Dwayne Duke
12. Grant Stevens
13. Luke Welsch
14. Ian Leota
15. Josh Harris
16. Karl Woodley
17. Nick McGrady