DAN'S THE MAN: Daniel Bligh will come off the bench for the Grafton Rhinos in Sunday's local derby at McKittrick Park.
DAN'S THE MAN: Daniel Bligh will come off the bench for the Grafton Rhinos in Sunday's local derby at McKittrick Park. Grafton Daily Examiner

Rhinos coup on eve of derby

GRAFTON Rhinos supporters may be a little bit shocked when they see the familiar face of Daniel Bligh sitting on the reserves bench when the Grafton Ghosts come calling at McKittrick Park on Sunday.

The former Ipswich Jets front-rower will be the wild-card in the Rhinos' deck, featuring off the bench as the club's fresh reserve in the local rugby league derby.

It will be a baptism of fire for the 19-year-old, but he would not have it any other way.

“I wouldn't miss it for the world,” he said.

“I was always a Rebel when I was young and never wanted to be a Ghosts player,” he said.

“And you know what they say, 'if you don't love 'em, hate 'em'.”

Bligh's eagerness to take the field for the fiery encounter was only matched by the eagerness of Rhinos officials to make his wish become a reality.

“They put the hard word on me and I said 'let's go'.” he said.

“They were pretty keen to get me down there, but I've still got contract work up here to finish, so I'll be just coming down for the weekend games for a bit.”

However, Bligh's imminent return to the Clarence Valley will be bitter-sweet for fans, with the young front-rower due to depart again to begin his new career with the Australian Air Force.

Bligh's decision to follow a military path was what initially led to the curtain being lowered on his stint with the Jets and a new one being raised, if only briefly, with the Rhinos.

“I always wanted to come home ... spend time with family and mates before I shipped off,” he said.

“I didn't burn any bridges and made sure I kept (the Jets) in the loop.

“They were really considerate and it helped with the Rhinos being a feeder club.”

Bligh said he had improved remarkably during his time working alongside Jets coach and league great Glenn Lazarus, assistant coaches Shane and Ben Walker and the most of all, the club's colts coach, Scott Dunshea.

“I've really picked up my work rate, not be such an enigma on the park and just improve the one per cent margins in my game,” he said.

“Lazarus brings a winning mentality and he just exudes respect. But I really learnt a lot from Scott, he gave me a leadership role within the squad and really helped me come along.”

The Ghosts will get first-hand knowledge of the leaner and meaner Bligh on Sunday, as the improved forward searches for the ball and any chinks in the Ghosts' defence.

“I play in the forwards, but since I have become more mobile I can do a lot more.” he said. “I'm looking forward to the game.”

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