Redmen centre Keaton Ingram is expected to line up for the side when they make the switch to Mid North Coast rugby next season.
Redmen centre Keaton Ingram is expected to line up for the side when they make the switch to Mid North Coast rugby next season.

Redmen head south for the winter

RUGBY UNION: Grafton Redmen are making the switch back to Mid North Coast rugby following 14 seasons in the Far North Coast competition.

Club president Craig Howe said the side was approached by Woolgoolga - which has registered a side in Mid North Coast first grade for next season - and the decision was not a hard one to make.

"It is a great thing for the club to make the switch," Howe said. "It suits our club structure better because they have nine first grade and nine second grade sides who will play on the same day.

"It will mean that our two grades will be able to travel together, which is better for players and supporters."

The move will mean the Redmen will drop their third grade side due to Mid North Coast not having a third grade competition running.

"It simply suits what we are attempting to achieve," Howe said. "A couple of guys who were talking about retiring, have decided to actually stay playing for the squad because of the move to Mid North Coast.

"Adam Crawley and Sean Austin are two who were definitely considering retirement but they are now keen to stay."

According to Howe, players who attended last week's Redmen Christmas barbecue at the Jacaranda Hotel were questioned about the potential move and the response was quite positive.

"Every player is very supportive of the move to Mid North Coast," he said. "The players who were there were definitely involved in the decision making process. We haven't got a negative player or a negative response to the news yet."

The Redmen have struggled in recent years to get ascendancy over strong clubs in the Far North Coast competition including Wollongbar, Alstonville and Byron Bay.

But Howe believes the Mid North Coast competition will be a little tighter and more competitive.

"I think down there it has been a little bit dominated by Port Macquarie in recent years," he said. "I think it will be quite competitive. We definitely aren't moving to an easier competition.

"Wauchope is new into the first grade competition next year along with a couple of others, so it will be interesting to see how they all play."

For the Redmen it is a bit of a case of double-deja vu as the last time they were in the Mid North Coast competition was 15 years ago in 2000, which was also the last year the Jacaranda Hotel was their major sponsor.

In 2016 both of these will be back after the Jacaranda Hotel announced it is resuming major sponsorship for next year.

Included in the Jacaranda Hotel sponsorship is the use of a team bus for each away game, which Howe said would save the club a lot of dollars on travel expenses.

According to Howe the only opposition to the move was from coach Ray Collie.

Collie declined to comment at this stage when approached by The DEX.

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