Jackson all action ahead of finals second-chance
RUGBY UNION: Grafton Redmen coach Craig Howe reckons the club has struck gold this season with new recruit Greg Jackson.
And who would argue?
Jackson, who scored 30 tries playing for Western Australian Southern Lions premiership winning side last year, has been in scintillating form this season.
Week after week Jackson throws himself into the fray with scant regard for life or limb. His legs pumping up and down like pistons, the Redmen outside centre strives for every inch on the footy field.
"He's been getting a couple of tries each game and has amazing leg drive," Howe said on the eve of Grafton's do-or-die clash with Coffs Snappers on Saturday.
"He's technically very good and has a very good rugby brain. He's not the biggest guy but he's so determined to keep going and his work at the breakdown is fantastic.
"I think he'd have to go close to the best centre to ever play for the Redmen."
Howe will be hoping his star centre can produce the goods in Grafton's preliminary final against Snappers who are fresh off a 41-13 pounding of Port Pirates in the minor semi-final last Sunday.
Last time the two sides met Grafton prevailed, scoring a contentious try right on full time for a 33-27 final round victory.
Howe knows all too well Snappers will be a tough side to overcome, even with Grafton's home ground advantage.
"Snappers are a very good side and will be hard as hell. Hopefully we can get on top of them both mentally and physically," he said.
Grafton players are still clearing the cobwebs from last week's agonising home ground loss to Hastings Valley Vikings, but Howe is confident his side can rebound and book a place in the Mid North Coast rugby grand final.
"We've already put the loss against Hastings out of our minds so we can focus on this week's game," Howe said.
"We talked about what we need to do and the areas we need to improve. The boys are confident and keen to get another chance against Hastings."
The Redmen will be without game-breaking fullback Karrnunny Pearce who has been sidelined with an ankle injury.
Howe admitted the fullback had carried the injury through the loss against Hastings last weekend, but it was not worth risking permanent damage as he rests ahead of the grand final.
"It is a massive worry for us, he is a game breaker, but the guys we have in the team can cover for him," Howe said.
"At the end of the day it is about (the players') wellbeing. We are not paying them, so they need to be able to keep working to provide for their families.
"It is just a shame all the injuries started happening at the wrong end of the season."
Grafton will take on Kempsey in the second grade fixture after the Cannonballs thumped Coffs Snappers 47-10.
PRELIMINARY FINAL: Grafton Redmen v Coffs Harbour Snappers at Rugby Park, South Grafton. Reserve grade kicks off at 1.30pm.