South Grafton High eyes off final
SOUTH Grafton High's under-14 rugby league side is staring down the barrel of a Buckley Shield grand final if they can overcome Chifley College at home today.
The Buckley Shield is the pinnacle of under-14 schoolboy league in New South Wales and the South Grafton side is within reach of the famous trophy usually dominated by specialist sports high schools in Sydney.
It is a huge achievement according to South Grafton High coach and teacher Matt McKee, who hasn't seen a local school progress this far in his 35 years.
"The boys have done a super job to be the North Coast Champions and get this far, and if they can beat the Western Sydney champions in Chifley College it will be an enormous feat," McKee said.
And a home-ground victory against the Western Sydney side is not out of the question according to the coach, who is predicting that his side will be scoring "around 40 points".
"Our side has averaged over 38 points a game in their lead-up matches to this semi-final," he said.
"Scoring points is not a problem for our boys, we have a highly talented back line who are almost impossible to hold out and a second row that are tireless in their work rate.
"The big question is whether we can restrict the other side from scoring."
McKee, usually the one handing out the homework, has completed his own study of the opposing Chifley College side and is expecting some big lads to hop off the coach this morning.
"I've done as much homework on the other side as I can, and they have a really good prop forward in Jack Tae who will be dangerous for us," McKee said.
"They also have a talented halfback, Tokoa Aturai and centre, James Papu, so they could be a handful if we are not strong in defence."
Chifley College is a combination of four regular high schools in Western Sydney, with Mt Druitt, Dunheved, Shalvey and Bidwill campuses.
They also have an under 14 boys population about three times the size of Grafton's.
But Grafton has its own aces up the sleeve when it comes to the age-group.
"Nearly the whole side plays together for the South Grafton Rhinos club side, which really helps in terms of cohesion," McKee said.
"Two boys play for the Ghosts, and one doesn't play club footy, but the remainder are all playing on the same team week in week out."
McKee nominates five-eighth Ethan Roberts and centres Nick Mckready and Zac Boney as Grafton's big offensive weapons, but also heaped praise on the props and the "good, hard-working back row".
"We can score plenty of points, the boys have scored tries from all over the park all year," he said.
"This bunch of kids, their real weapon is their attack.
"It's just a matter of us keeping the ball and they'll be forced to score plenty of points themselves if they are to keep up.
"If we can hold them in the forwards, and stop them scoring then I think we are in with a real shot at causing a major upset."
The whole of South Grafton High School will be lining the sidelines for the match, along with an army of loyal family and community supporters.
"It should be a great atmosphere and that will help lift the boys for sure," McKee said.
"Everyone is welcome to come along and help support our side, and there will be plenty to cheer about if we can win our way into the Buckley Shield grand final."
The match will be played at 10am today at McKittrick Park.