Welsh import leads the way
BACK beach Minnie Water is a far cry from the seaport city of Cardiff in south-east Wales.
And for Grafton Ghosts’ new Welsh import Thomas Burnell the chance to swim in the clear blue waters of the ocean was somewhat of a novelty.
Burrell joined his new teammates for a rigorous training session at Minnie Water on Wednesday and he relished the opportunity to experience the tepid waters of the Pacific Ocean.
“You can’t do this in Cardiff, it’s just too cold, the beach is just beautiful,” Burnell said.
The 21-year old hooker/ halfback arrived in Grafton on Monday and was put through the paces almost immediately by coach Col Speed who was influential in obtaining the services of Burnell.
“I arrived about 5.30am Monday morning. Col showed me around the town and all of a sudden I was training that evening,” he said.
“When I left Wales we had about 10 inches of snow and it was -5-6C and now I’m straight into the heat.”
Burnell said the opportunity to play the sport he loves in rugby league-mad Australia was too good to pass up and thanked the Grafton Ghosts - in particular his new boss - for organising the transfer.
“Col is good friends with Anthony Seilbold who is the head performance coach at (Super League side) Celtic Crusaders. I told him I was interested in playing in Australia and he got hold of Colin and then Col contacted me which was really nice,” he said.
Cardiff, normally associated with rugby union, has been a growth area for league in recent years and according to Burnell the 13-a-side game is set to explode.
“Rugby is the strongest sport in Wales but rugby league is really fast growing. Obviously the Celtic Crusaders have made the game much more popular - a lot of younger kids are now playing rugby league,” he said.
Burnell said his first impressions of Grafton were positive and he is looking forward to a successful season with the Ghosts.
“I’ve only been here a few days but Grafton is a beautiful city. It’s really nice... the weather, the people, and the beach,” he said.
“My main goal is is to play some good footy and hopefully be successful at the Ghosts - I’m really looking forward to the experience.”
Burnell, along with other Ghosts players, were subjected to a series of beach sprints and the dreaded sand dune climbs, which according to several players ‘turned their legs into jelly.’
The Ghosts have recently secured the services of veteran athletics coach Terry West, who has been given the task of getting the players in peak fitness before the season kicks off in early May
“Running up the dunes is both physically and mentally tough,” West said.
“After the boys finish the dunes they have quick surf before the beach sprints. Most of the players managed three sandhill climbs, our adjective is to get six in four weeks.”