REBEL RESILIENCE: Juniors on the rise at South Grafton
AS RUGBY league struggles through a tumultuous season across northern New South Wales, the South Grafton Rebels have defied the odds to boast an increase in numbers.
Rebels junior club president Erin Gallagher was delighted to see growth at the club despite the cancellation of senior Group 2 Rugby League earlier this year.
“The Rebels have had more junior teams than we have seen in a long time. I’ve been with the club for 12 years and our numbers have hit new heights this season,” Gallagher said.
“We’ve had upwards of 190 kids and that’s an amazing achievement with everything that’s going on.”
COVID-19 has left the senior Rebels without game time but Gallagher said the hard work to get juniors on the field has paid off.
“It’s been really tough because it’s been such an erratic season. To even get started we had a lot to do in regards to COVID planning,” she said.
“There have been constant changes instructed by the NSW Premier and NSW Sport. It’s been difficult to learn and do what we needed to but it’s all been worth it.
“For kids, the main emphasis was getting them on the park. Without an outlet like rugby league I think their mental health would have suffered. Sport is a fantastic outlet to get kids moving so that’s why we pursued it so strongly.”
Gallagher said while South Grafton’s squads may not be at the top of every competition ladder, the passion and camaraderie is second to none.
“We’ve got big numbers and big hearts. Maybe we’re not as competitive as other teams but we’ve certainly got the numbers,” she said.
“With the playing numbers you start to see more kids staying with the club to play and than means more talent to go into senior sides if the players choose.”
For Gallagher’s son Jordan, who was playing for the Rebels under-18 side, 2020 has been difficult as he tried to find a team in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition.
“My son joined Kyogle but they couldn’t get a team so he went to Casino to play with Hayden Ensbey,” she said.
“Kids need that interaction. They’ve been playing all their lives and it’s part of the norm. Mental health has been an important thing to tackle as these kids go through a lot of changes.”
The Rebels’ strong junior contingent travels to Yamba on Saturday to face Clarence Coast Magpies before hosting the final round of the regular season at McKittrick Park the following Saturday.