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Astute rugby league coach Colin Speed is preparing to move back to Queensland to continue his coaching career after spending several years coaching in the Clarence Valley, including winning two premierships as coach of the Grafton Ghosts. Image: Emma Pritchard.

Speeding towards the next chapter in his coaching career

Emma Pritchard

 As he sits under the scoreboard and gazes across Frank McGuren Field, there are plenty of moments he quietly reflects on.

Some of them he remembers fondly, some are humorous, and some are slightly darker.

But as he prepares to leave the Clarence Valley, where his name has been synonymous in the local rugby league community for the past 13 years, Colin Speed is proud of the legacy he has created, the players he has coached and encouraged and the extraordinary achievements he has masterminded. 

After arriving from Toowoomba in late 2007 to take on the role as coach of the Grafton Ghosts, he brought a new wave of confidence and a determined, no-nonsense attitude with him which became evident when he declared the popular local team would soon be “top five” on the NRRRL (Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League) ladder, having finished 11th in the 2007 season.

He introduced changes, focused strongly on the nutrition, hydration and recovery of his players and dedicated countless hours on the training paddock.

Within a year, he had steered the Grafton Ghosts to the minor premiership and then the grand final, which they lost by one point in extra time against the Byron Bay Red Devils.

It was a phenomenal achievement for an incredibly young team, but it was also the beginning of one of the greatest coaching stints in the NRRRL.

“There was something special about that side,” Mr Speed said of the 2008 team.

“We had some very underrated players amongst them and they were really keen to learn and progress.

“I wanted to do everything I could with the team to help them win the premiership that they wanted.”

And he did, but not just once.

Mr Speed successfully coached the Grafton Ghosts to two premierships, back-to-back in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Under his leadership, the team also won the prestigious Claytons Cup twice, which is an award given to the most successful NSW country club throughout the year.

Describing the Claytons Cup triumphs as the “icing on the cake,” Mr Speed credits the accolades to “working with good people and establishing a good club culture.”

Along with four years coaching the Grafton Ghosts, Mr Speed also worked as assistant coach at Mackay Cutters for the 2012 Queensland Intrust Super Cup season before returning to the North Coast and coaching the Coffs Harbour Comets to their first Group 2 title in almost 30 years.

He also coached the Orara Valley Axemen from 2017-2019.

Hailing from a “mad, passionate sporting family”, Mr Speed grew up in Thargomindah, a small town in south west Queensland and started playing rugby league in high school before relocating to Toowoomba to pursue his passion for the sport.

It is fitting that he will return to the Queensland city to kick off the next chapter of his coaching career as head coach of the Newtown Lions in the Toowoomba Rugby League A Grade competition in 2021.

“He will definitely be a loss to the local rugby league community,” said Michael Rogan, a former president of the Grafton Ghosts and the man who had a hand in bringing the club’s former coach to Grafton.

“He’s a good person to have at your club and I wish him all the best.”