OLD FLAME: Grafton Ghosts man Carson Galloway takes the ball during a round 15 match in the NRRRL 'glory days' of 2013 at Frank McGuren Field.
OLD FLAME: Grafton Ghosts man Carson Galloway takes the ball during a round 15 match in the NRRRL 'glory days' of 2013 at Frank McGuren Field. Debrah Novak

GHOSTS GONE? Grafton making moves for NRRRL reunion

RUGBY LEAGUE: The Grafton Ghosts have declared their intent of returning to the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition in 2020.

It has been well-known the Ghosts have been hoping for a return to the competition ever since they were removed as part of a reshuffle six years ago but this year club president Gary Gillespie believes they can make it happen.

"We'll be be applying to go back to NRRRL comp for 2020 within next couple of weeks,” Gillespie said.

"We will be adjudicated by the NRRRL at an AGM on Monday, November 11. If we get majority vote we will then go to the Group 2 AGM on November 12 to let them know that we will not be applying to stay in the competition.”

Gillespie wants the move for a number of reasons and said that it would be a better fit for the club across all age grades.

"I'm hoping to see us back in the Northern competition. It's a stronger league that would then be more aligned with our juniors for quality and travel for games,” he said.

Grafton Ghosts celebrate after claiming the 2019 Group 2 Rugby League premiership with an emphatic 68-6 grand final win over minor premiers Coffs Harbour Comets at Geoff King Motors Oval on Sunday, 18th August, 2019.
Grafton Ghosts celebrate after claiming the 2019 Group 2 Rugby League premiership with an emphatic 68-6 grand final win over minor premiers Coffs Harbour Comets at Geoff King Motors Oval on Sunday, 18th August, 2019. Mitch Keenan

The Ghosts have found success in the Group 2 competition with three premierships over the past six years but Gillespie believes they are headed in the wrong direction.

"I can't see a prolonged future in Group 2 unless they make drastic changes,” he said.

"The competition has not been as consistent, there's only really a couple of teams at the top end and the others are split up a bit more. There's a disparity and they need consistency and quality across the board. In the NRRRL and Group 1 there is a lot more consistency across the competition.”

Certain clubs have struggled to stay afloat in the competition that is already working with limited numbers and Gillespie said things could get worse.

"In the Group 2 competition, Bellingen Valley/Dorrigo Magpies have already indicated that there's a good chance they won't be fielding a team next year with a number of players that have already gone to Nambucca Heads for their 100th year,” he said.

"Orara Valley Axemen also finished poorly after controversy throughout the year. It all makes it very difficult to plan for the clubs that are trying to be proactive.”

For Gillespie, the move would give the Ghosts a chance to continue to grow as a country club and although they have had success in Group 2, he believes they can be even better.

"We've been through a real golden period, we've made semi-finals every year for past 12 years, six were in the NRRRL and six in group 2. We haven't won every year but we have always been very competitive,” he said.

Koopah Walters heads for the line between the Grafton Ghosts and the Kyogle Turkeys in the under-12 grand final at Frank McGuren Field last month.
Koopah Walters heads for the line between the Grafton Ghosts and the Kyogle Turkeys in the under-12 grand final at Frank McGuren Field last month. Mitchell Keenan

Grafton's junior ranks have been strong but Gillespie is looking to Terry Day as an example of where the Ghosts could be in the years to come.

"We've got a good local stock and success of seniors is a direct result of past influencers on the club like Terry, former president of the Ghosts junior rugby league,” he said.

"He had his finger on the pulse and made sure there was one of each age grade every year with good coaching and mentoring and we really reaped the rewards. We've been lucky to maintain a strong nucleus of players.”

Grafton will learn their fate after the NRRRL and Group 2 AGM's on November 11 and 12.



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