Do or die time for the Grafton Redmen

HUGE ASSIGNMENT: Redmen inside centre Ed McGrath will line up against former Waratahs and Reds player A.J. Gilbert in Sunday's elimination semi-final.
HUGE ASSIGNMENT: Redmen inside centre Ed McGrath will line up against former Waratahs and Reds player A.J. Gilbert in Sunday's elimination semi-final. Gary Nichols

RUGBY UNION: Ed McGrath is gearing up for the biggest game in his rugby career in Sunday's do-or-die semi-final against SCU Marlins.

The 24-year-old barnstorming ball carrier has been a revelation at inside centre this season and on Sunday will line up against arguably the competition's best player in A J Gilbert.

A country boy at heart and former back-rower, McGrath admits he's more at ease on the farm tending his cattle than donning the number-12 Redmen jumper.

And he's not afraid to admit his liking for R.M. Williams apparel and listening to a spot of country music on the radio.

"I'm definitely more comfortable being on the farm and around cattle than playing inside centre,” McGrath said.

"I've always been on the farm working with cattle. I even worked on Alexandria Downs in the Northern Territory as a Ringer for eighteen months.

"At first I felt like a fish out of water playing in the backs but I'm getting used to it and having Kyle (Hancock) at five-eighth has helped me a lot.”

There's no doubting if the Redmen can match Marlins in the backs it will go a long way towards securing a win. Led by former Waratahs and Queensland Reds player A J Gilbert, Uni have one of the most potent back lines in the competition.

"AJ's obviously a bloody good football player. He's played Super 15 rugby to start with,” McGrath said.

"It is a bit daunting playing opposite him but I think I've held my own against him this season.”

Gilbert, who will play for Woolgoolga against Sawtell in the Group 2 elimination semi-final on Saturday, said he is expecting another tough weekend of football.

"I'm not as young as I used to be so playing two games on the weekend is a bit tough,” Gilbert said during the week.

"The worst thing is it's a bit hard rocking up for work on Monday morning.”

Like McGrath, Gilbert has played most of his footy in the loose forwards.

However, Marlins coach Dwayne Vignes has utilised his silky skills and experience in the centres.

"I suppose growing up in Dorrigo you don't have the numbers so you play where you're needed,” he said.

For McGrath, victory against Marlins will provide him with the perfect excuse from redeveloping a house and farm he recently purchased on the outskirts of Grafton.

"Playing rugby on the weekend has slowed progress on the house and farm. There is a lot of work to do but I had to take a step back because of rugby,” he said.

Grafton Redmen take on Southern Cross University at Marlin Park on Sunday, with first grade kicking off at 3pm.

Topics:  grafton redmen mid north coast rugby union

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