By BOB ANTHONY and TONY WHITE
THERE are a lot of clubs in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition who hope the Gold Coast Titans' "rescue mission" to the South Grafton Rebels pays off.
South Grafton, already struggling for enough A-grade players to field a side, has been dealt a major blow with the loss of its senior coach Ray Mercy, due to work commitments.
Should the Rebels bow out of A-grade, it will mean a hasty redrafting of the home-and-away season for the NRRRL.
Any overhaul of the draw will probably mean the dropping of a bye each week, and leaves Tweed clubs anxiously waiting to see the outcome.
For Cudgen Hornets coach Jamie Mathiou, the news adds to his frustration in preparing his side for the regular competition.
South Grafton was to be Cudgen's first game of the season at Grafton on April 2, with the second round a bye and the third about two weeks later, again at Grafton, against the Grafton Ghosts. That could leave the Hornets A-grade players without a run for seven weeks.
The Murwillumbah Mustangs are meant to host South Grafton at Stan Sercombe Oval on April 23.
A meeting next Tuesday will determine whether the NRRRL
competition will have 12 or 13 sides in the A-grade.
The Titans' involvement came after a Rebels supporter contacted Australian Rugby League CEO Geoff Carr asking for his help to get the club through a troubled period.
On Thursday, head Titans coach John Cartwright and coaching and development manager Gavin Judd travelled down to the beleaguered Rebels camp to help out in their weekly training session.
For Cartwright, it was a case of helping out a club in the Titans' catchment.
"It's a club that has been going for more than 90 years and no-one wants to see it or any club fold," Cartwright said.
"We are ready to help out where we can, but initially, it's important for South Grafton to secure a senior grade coach."
Cartwright and Judd took the players through a number of training drills and the presence of the rugby league identity obviously had the desired effect of drawing people to the South Grafton ground.
Cartwright said while the Titans weren't widely known in the Grafton area, visits such as this went a long way towards lifting the profile of the new club and establishing a connection with Grafton which has a strong rugby league heritage.
More than 100 spectators, supporters and officials including NRRRL secretary Doug Harrison and treasurer Gary Williams watched the 80-minute session involving 40 Rebels players.
Rebels president Janita Cooper said the session was "a huge success".
"It was just great. It was wonderful to see the South Grafton and Grafton community behind us," she said.
"We had about 40 players including 18 seniors, with about four senior players who hadn't been to training before.
"I can't thank the Titans coaching staff enough for what they've done. "There's a different feeling in the place, a real buzz going around. People are excited."
With the make-up of the 2006 NRRRL season at stake, it won't just be anxious South Grafton supporters hoping ranks swell.