By TONY WHITE
UNLESS the hapless Ghosts improve dramatically they are headed for a very long season.
The commitment, enthusiasm and skill levels displayed in the team's opening win against Lower Clarence have disappeared into a Ghostly remnant.
At Frank McGuren Park yesterday the Ghosts fumbled and stumbled their way to a mistake-ridden third straight loss, this time against previously winless Casino Cougars, who were thrashed 90-16 by Tweed Coast Seagulls last week.
"I'm hoping that (the game) is our lowest point. If it's not we've got a long one ahead of us," Ghosts dumfounded coach Matt McKee said after the game.
"I don't want to say anymore."
The Ghosts were forced to make several player and positional changes leading into the match and have more injury and judiciary problems after the game.
Winger Jason Cheeney was stretchered off after a massive shoulder charge by Casino front-rower Chris McGrath and reserve prop Scott Kilduff and McGrath were sent off in the 19th minute following a melee on the sideline.
And half/five-eighth Bob Davison played his last game for the Ghosts after being admitted into the NSW Police Force.
After a promising start with the Ghosts leading 16-4 after tries to Don Dickson, Chris Adamson and Kyle Walters by the 19th minute, the Ghosts became their own worst enemy.
By half time Casino had fought back to go to the break 16-all.
The Ghosts appeared to only be going through the motions in second gear. There was no sting in their defence, players regularly missed tackles and at times players didn't know where they were playing after a series of interchanges.
Ghosts busy hooker Jason Vidler scored three minutes into the second stanza to take the Ghosts to a 20-16 lead but 12 minutes later, following a wide break by three-try hero Wes Torrens and a conversion by five-eighth Garry Roberts, Casino hit the front 22-20 and were never headed.
The Ghosts stocks slumped further when Don Dickson succumbed to an ankle injury, initially sustained during representative training last week.
There was no go ahead in the forwards, no attacking platform.
"I'm very happy the boys were able to back up from last week's drubbing. They've learned a lot," Casino coach Cavill Heugh said.
"In the first half we didn't complete too many sets but that improved in the second half and the points came.
"They showed a lot of character and courage. This win will give us a lot of confidence."
Heugh, a former Queensland State of Origin player agreed Torrens and Roberts were the club's mainstay in attack.
Fullback Cameron George, who played five-eighth, lock and half during the game was creative, McGrath was strong before his dismissal and second-rower Andrew Barker was outstanding in defence.
For the Ghosts, lock Josh Ryder had a blinder, Shaun Davison and Mitch Cooper tried hard, Dickson was good again, Walters continues to improve, Barber was solid and Vidler creative.