Redmen see safety in zone switch
RUGBY UNION: The Grafton Redmen could be heading north for the 2019 season according to club president Craig Chad.
After three years playing in the Mid North Coast competition, Grafton are looking more likely to return to the Far North Coast zone after recent talks with zone administrators.
A concern over the make-up of the first grade competition in the southern zone has prompted the Redmen to sound out a possible reinstatement with the powers up north.
Mid North Coast could be restricted to a five or six team competition next season, whereas their counterparts are looking to field nine first grade and nine second-grade sides.
Add to that a possible eight-team Presidents' Cup competition and it's a very attractive alternative.
Far North Coast executive officer Wayne Millane indicated his zone would be more than happy to welcome Grafton back into the competition.
"Grafton has made a formal request to come back to us and depending on approval from the other clubs we would welcome them back with open arms,” Millane said during the week.
"After all, the Redmen are a foundation club. I understand the Mid North Coast are keen for Grafton to stay in their competition so we will have to wait and see.
"We have asked all the clubs to vote and get back to us in 21 days with their decision. We've already had a few responses from clubs who are in favour of Grafton joining the competition next year.”
After speaking with members of the club, newly elected president Chad said he was fairly confident the Redmen would make the switch up north. "We're not a shoe-in yet but it's looking very good,” Chad said.
"We attended a meeting in Lismore last week and discussed the matter with the zone and a representative from NSW Country Rugby Union.
"We stated our reasons for wanting to return to the Far North Coast and they (NSW Country) could see where we are coming from.
"We have to do what is best for our club. The last few seasons we've had forfeits from other clubs and it's looking like Mid North Coast may struggle for sides.
"We had to turn players away last year because there was no third grade competition. The Far North Coast has a President's Cup which would allow us to accommodate more players.”
It may also see a renewal of the local rivalry between the Redmen and the Yamba Buccaneers and Iluka Cossacks.
The Redmen first grade side will make their official return to training next week, with coach Craig Howe deciding it was time to get on track.
"We'll start pre-season training on Thursday, November 22 at Grafton High,” Howe said.
"We will mainly be focusing on skills and fitness with no contact at this stage.”