Ghost of a chance -- League clubs may unite

IT's not often a team nominating for a competition is labelled "selfish" and the "death knell" of the sport.

But that's exactly the reaction to the Grafton Ghosts' nominaton for the Northern Rivers rugby league competition for 2008.

Rugby league in Grafton is in %crisis, with the Ghosts and South Grafton Rebels both struggling to put competitive teams on the field, and moves to form a united club dependent on the agreement of both clubs and the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League AGM %approving a new united team. Fighting for a single viable league club to represent the town, Grafton City Rugby League president Danny Scott said ultimately it was up to the NRRRL clubs to decide.

"It's up to them. Do they want a situation where they know they'll be able to come to Grafton for an easy win or do they want to have a stronger competition?" he asked.

Last week the Rebels doubted they could even see out the rest of the season, although in the end they did manage to field teams on the weekend. Rebels president Janita Cooper said her club, which has struggled in the Northern League for the past 18 months, supported the formation of a united club to be Grafton's sole representative in the competition.

But of course that depended on what the Grafton Ghosts were doing for 2008.

On Friday the Rebels and the city got their answer, when the Ghosts said they would nominate again in their own right.

Grafton Ghosts president %Michael Rogan said a united club would fail. That's despite the fact the Ghosts won just one match last season and have won just three to-date this year.

His attitude drew an angry response from Scott, who called the Ghosts' decision "selfish" and said it could be the "death knell" of the game in the city.

He accused the Ghosts of only thinking of themselves rather than spectators, the players or rugby league itself.

"Everyone agrees that the best thing for rugby league in Grafton is to have one viable club representing the town," Scott said.

"The under-18s want a single club and so do the seniors.

"It's so hard for the seniors. A lot them only want to play reserves, but have to play A-grade because there are not enough players in the club for two senior teams.

"I feel sorry for those players because they're playing two games, often playing injured and getting flogged every game."

Scott's biggest worry is that his group will organise the new club only to have it knocked back at the Northern Rivers Rugby League AGM in November.

"The stance of the Ghosts is a thorn in our side," Scott said.

"It concerns me that we could do all the work putting together a club that is viable with good players queuing up to play for us and then get knocked back at the NRRRL annual meeting."

Murwillumbah Mustangs club president Nigel Lofts believes the formation of one club to represent Grafton would be a good move not only for the city but also the league.

Lofts, who presides over a very successful rugby league club thanks to the merger of two former Murwillumbah clubs believes the Grafton Ghosts and the Rebels have nothing to fear from the creation of a united club.

"It has been a really positive for Murwillumbah, bringing the town together behind the one team and a competitive one at that," Lofts said.

The Mustangs came into being with the merger of Old Boys and Brothers, while the third Murwillumbah team, Souths, moved to the Tweed Coast to become the Tweed Coast Raiders.

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