Rebels primed for memorial showdown at Bello
RUGBY LEAGUE: While it is a chance for his players to have a carefree game of pre-season football, the gravity of this weekend's Sgt. Matthew Locke MG Charity Day is not lost on South Grafton Rebels coach Ron Gordon.
For the second year in a row the Rebels have been invited to the charity day at Bellingen Park where they will come up against the might of the Navy Tridents side.
The Rebels have also been asked to bring an Under 18s side and their ladies league tag troops to play trials against Bellingen outfits.
All these games will act as a precursor to the feature game of the day between the Army Thunder and a composite Group 2 Barbarians outfit.
The Barbarians side will be made up of a handful of Bellingen Magpies first graders - who were unable to find numbers for a full team - as well as Orara Valley and South Grafton players.
Gordon said his troops jumped at the opportunity to play at the carnival, supporting any efforts to raise money in honour of the late Bellingen soldier.
"We had a really good time down there last year, there was a lot of respect shown to our boys,” Gordon said. "It is definitely a proud moment for us to get involved in the cause, any charities around here that we can lend a hand to we definitely will.”
With the Magpies club also struggling to take flight ahead of the 2018 season, Gordon said his club was happy to lend a hand where they could.
"We know what it feels like to be struggling like that. We have been in those shoes, not too long ago. And we know how to get out of it, so anyway we can help them is positive for our game,” he said.
"We have often spoken about the importance of the day, all the boys know why we are doing it, and they are all on board and all keen.”
Getting towards the end of pre-season with the competition kicking off in just over a month's time, the trial match against the Navy side will be one of Gordon's last chances to see his players in action.
While they won't have a full strength first grade side on the day, there will be a smattering of top grade players including electrifying new half Kieron Johnson-Heron and reliable lock Luke Welch.
Gordon said he is excited to get a look at Johnson-Heron's first game in the halves after he played most of last season out wide.
"I want to see my new number seven play in the 13-a-side format,” Gordon said. "He had a bit of fun down at the Coffs Coast 9s tournament last week but that is obviously a different style of football.
"He has been really good in training, he has always had the ticker and has always had the work ethic, he just has not had the opportunities. This year, it's his chance and hopefully he grabs it with both hands.”