HARD WORKER: South Grafton Rebels centre Luke French is caught up in a tackle laid by a pair of Sawtell Panthers opponents last weekend at Rex Hardaker Oval.
HARD WORKER: South Grafton Rebels centre Luke French is caught up in a tackle laid by a pair of Sawtell Panthers opponents last weekend at Rex Hardaker Oval. Brad Greenshields

LEAGUE: French thriving on opportunity in the bush

RUGBY LEAGUE: Three years ago South Grafton Rebels centre Luke French decided to step on the field for the first time.

It was soon apparent to everyone in his small home town of Tingha, that the kid was destined for greatness.

The brother of Parramatta Eels fullback Bevan French, and a distant relative of former NRL star Nathan Blacklock, league is in French's blood.

"All of my brothers were playing from when they were five, but it was just something I didn't do,” he said.

"I loved playing in the backyard with them, but on weekends I preferred to watch in the stands.

"But one weekend I just decided to give it a go with a couple of mates and I haven't looked back since then.”

French has spent time in the Eels development system as well as with the Redcliffe Dolphins Under 20s side which he said had helped on his return to the bush.

He was initially a target of the Sawtell Panthers side, but injured South Grafton Rebels captain Grant "Stumpy” Stevens called the exciting centre before the season started and offered him a spot in the Rebels outfit.

And French said it was one of the best moves the 19-year-old had made.

"This is my third week with the club. The boys are really good, they have made me feel right at home,” he said.

"After my first run with the side it felt like I was just at home. The fans were fully behind me, cheering me on. They made it feel like I had been part of this club for years.

"I have passion there, they are all my brothers in that side already. Now it is just building the pride in the jersey.”

French is also not afraid of extra workload, regularly finding himself hitting the ball up as an extra forward.

After coming off a shock win away from home against table-topping Sawtell Panthers last weekend, the Rebels will now aim for their first win at home in the McKittrick Park fortress against Macksville Sea Eagles.

The Rebels will be without workhorse lock Luke Welch who has been sidelined for six weeks after coming under friendly fire from Rebels hardman Sione Tonga.

Welch was sent to hospital after the clash of heads in last weekend's game which left the lock with three fractures in his orbital cheek bone.

Fullback Izack Smidt will also be missing for the clash after he tweaked his knee in the side's win against Sawtell last weekend.

GAME DAY: South Grafton Rebels v Macksville Sea Eagles at McKittrick Park. First grade kicks off at 2.30pm, Sunday.

REBELS SIDE: 1. Kieren Stewart, 2. Aaron Taylor, 3. Luke French, 4. Nick Mcgrady, 5. Anthony Skinner, 6. Keiron Johnson-Heron, 7. Jerome Green, 8. Sione Tonga, 9. Mike Morris, 10. Jeffery Skeen, 11. Dwayne Duke, 12. Josh Harris, 13. Karl Woodley, 14. Xavier Sullivan, 15. David Briggs