RUGBY LEAGUE: With their first premiership title defence in 40 years looming the South Grafton Rebels have gone into a gruelling pre-season training led by head coach Ronnie Gordon and senior team members Grant 'Stumpy' Stevens and Hughie Stanley.

South Grafton Rebels president Ray Taunton said he had been quite pleased by the number of players turning up for each training session with the numbers growing as the season continues to approach.

"The number of blokes turning up and getting involved is increasing each week," Taunton said. "I was pretty pleased last week, there was a good number of players all putting in the hard yards on JJ Lawrence Field.

"The boys are very keen on taking out the premiership again - so some of them have been doing a lot of off-season work."

After a minor exodus of players from their premiership winning side including Mal Webster Jnr, Roy Bell, Oral Monaghan and Chris Carr, several players have had to step up into leadership roles during the pre-season regime.

"Rhys [Walters], Grant Stevens and Ant Cowan are all leaders within our club who have really taken it upon themselves to lead by example at training."

The South Grafton side have been buoyed by the return of Hughie Stanley to training sessions ahead of the new season.

"Hughie brings with him a lot of experience to our training sessions," Taunton said. "He has trained at the highest level of the sport in this country and he brings a knowledge of the fitness side of things as well which is a big focus of ours this season."

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But it is not all roses for the Rebels so far this pre-season with numbers down in the Under 18s stock and the club putting out a desperate plea for players to join the ranks.

"To be brutally honest we believe numbers in under 18s are down - we are putting in strategies now to assist in that side," Taunton said.

"We are very keen to talk to the juniors - there has been a lot of work put in to focus on being a family club. That has shown over the last couple of years. There is also plenty of talent there to get down and show them the way."

Any interested players can join the Rebels during training at JJ Lawrence Field from 6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.



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