South Grafton Rebels first grade side at the Coffs Coast 9s.
South Grafton Rebels first grade side at the Coffs Coast 9s. Contributed

Rebels 'dumbfounded' over Coffs Coast 9s final snub

RUGBY LEAGUE: South Grafton Rebels' first grade side were left scratching their heads at Geoff King Motors Oval on Saturday after the undefeated side missed out on a berth in the Coffs Coast 9s final on a for-and-against countback.

Despite winning all three of their regular round clashes, the Rebels were told to pack the bus early as Macksville Sea Eagles - who won the two clashes they played - were given passage to the final showdown with Port Macquarie Sharks as the points differential percentage reportedly eclipsed South Grafton.

Rebels coach Ron Gordon said the club felt "robbed" by the result and they would likely not support the preseason tournament in future years.

"We are dumbfounded about it, just couldn't believe it " he said. "After the win against Bello (Bellingen- Dorrigo Magpies) I told the boys to find some shade and rest up for the final. Little did I know we wouldn't even be playing it.

"You do feel robbed. The boys put in the hard yards to remain undefeated for nothing in the end.

"I don't think we will support (the competition) again until they change the way it is run."

Coffs Coast 9s coordinator Steve Gooley hit back at Gordon's claims, claiming every club knew the way it worked from the start of the day.

"It was always laid out that teams would qualify for finals based on for-and-against percentages," he said.

"Everyone had the rules at the start of the competition."

The Coffs Harbour Comets club president said the event was again "bigger and better" than previous seasons and has a hope to one day run it as a two-day carnival.

"We were very happy, it was very successful once again," Gooley said. "We have grown the competition over a number of years and 2017 was the best of the lot.

"At the end of the event every single club came up to me and said they had a great day and would be back to contest it next year."

While Gordon was disappointed with the end result, he said the round games provided a great opportunity for his side to get time on the field ahead of the regular season kick-off next month.

It was a strong preseason showing for the Group 2 champions as they aim for a third straight premiership crown in 2017.

While missing a few of their more experienced first grade names including Hugh Stanley, Jade Duroux and Ben Woods, the competition gave Gordon a chance to blood a few of the younger brigade.

Former under-18 players Brendan Ellis and Adam Landsberry acquitted themselves well in Coffs Harbour, while it was boom outside back Kieron Johnson-Heron who had heads turning.

"Giving those younger blokes a run with the top grade side did wonders for our club," Gordon said. "Kieron is a freak of a talent, he has come up through the ranks last year and really impressed a lot of people at the weekend.

Front rower Karl Woodley refound the form he showed at the back end of last year which saw him go within a whisker of player of the grand final honours against the Ghosts, while Matty Laurie proved why he has been part of the Rebels' make-up for a number of years.

The side was dominant against 2016 NRRRL grand finalists Cudgen in their first clash winning 21-4 before also securing results against hosts Coffs Harbour (21-15) and Group 2 cellar dwellers Bellingen-Dorrigo Magpies (17-15).

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