QUICK DECISION: Former Grafton Ghosts first grade and last year's Under 18s coach Col Speed has signed with the Orara Valley Axemen for 2017.
QUICK DECISION: Former Grafton Ghosts first grade and last year's Under 18s coach Col Speed has signed with the Orara Valley Axemen for 2017. Debrah Novak

Axemen sign Speed

RUGBY LEAGUE: After just one season at the helm of Grafton Ghosts Under 18s side, the Orara Valley Axemen have pulled off a major coup, signing premiership-winning coach Col Speed as their first grade coach for 2017.

After leading the Grafton Ghosts to consecutive NRRRL titles in 2010 and 2011, Speed joined the Coffs Harbour Comets, coaching the team to three grand finals, and winning in 2013.

Speed coached the Ghosts Under 18s side in 2016, but the opportunity to return to Group 2 first grade was too good for Speed to refuse.

"I was basically sitting in limbo, looking for at opportunity when (Orara Valley) approached me," Speed said.

"They approached me via a young player by the name of Cody Berry, who I coached at Coffs, and he put my name forward as someone that could be a good fit for the club.

"Peter (Spinks, Orara Valley Axemen president) rang me and I went down there and had a meeting and it basically went from there."

Last season the Orara Valley Axemen sent Group 2 into a stir after poaching the talented halves pairing of Ant Cowan and Mal Webster Jr from South Grafton Rebels, along with landing captain-coach Willie Lockwood, who was the first to coach the Macleay Valley Mustangs to a premiership in 50 years.

However, the Axemen finished the season at the bottom half of the Group 2 ladder, which is something club president Spinks said he hoped to turn around with a focus on players who started their rugby league journeys with the Axemen.

"I just think it's a great opportunity for our club to have a coach of Cols calibre agree to join the club," Spinks said.

"It's a great opportunity for our young guys who have come up through the club over the years to learn under a renowned coach who has plenty of pedigree and success to his name.

"As a club, we want to concentrate on the young guys who have been in and around the club the few years, and attract back a few players who have strong connections to the Orara club as well as further our community based stuff.

"It's a good way forward and Col's signing is a good first stepping stone."

Speed said he was impressed with the club's community atmosphere and hopes to build a talented squad focussed on local talent.

"Developing local talents will be a key indicator of my job. There's some really good local talent here at the moment, so my priority will be to get local lads on board," he said.

Since announcing his signing with the Axemen, Speed said he has been overwhelmed with the response from players looking to sign on with the club.

"There's been a lot of local players who used to play for the Axemen who have contacted me and want to play for the club, which is really good to see," he said.



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