Ghosts premiership sweetens sour off-field season
RUGBY LEAGUE: After more than four decades with the Grafton Ghosts, club president and lifeblood Joe Kinnane said winning the 2017 Premiership was the sweetest feeling he had felt with the club.
It came on the back of one of the Ghosts most dominant years with first grade going undefeated through the season and the blue and whites clinching the 2017 Group 2 club championship.
While the road has been paved with gold for the Grafton side this season, Kinnane said it has still been a rocky journey to the top of the Group 2 tree this year.
"The grand final glory feels really good," Kinnane said.
"I have been there a few times before but I think today was a little bit more special because at the start of the year we were having trouble getting a committee, a lot of blokes retired but they came back to support the club and look what happened.
"It hasn't been an easy road but it has been pretty smooth once the season started. A lot of that credit has to go to Danny Wicks, but also a lot needs to go to Ben McLennan because he had the side last year and it just continued on from that."
While it is not the first time the Ghosts have emerged from the season undefeated - they won consecutive Clayton Cups in 2010-11 - Kinanne said it still remained up there as one of the most dominant sides they have put on the park.
"I think once before in the history of the Ghosts we have gone through the season undefeated, but this year just feels very special for the club," he said. "Danny has done a great job for the club both on and off the field, he deserves a lot of credit for that."
But while the Ghosts have tasted success on the field this season it has been a different story off the park, with the club and players coming to blows with Group 2 administration on several occasions. One including Kinnane himself after he claimed the side was tired of a lack of communication with management.
Kinnane was threatened with a charge of bringing the game of rugby league into disrepute for his outburst and it has been a worry that concerned him until the final hooter on Sunday.
"This win makes it all worth it," Kinnane said.
"I took it to heart a bit when the group said I was getting charged with bringing the game into disrepute.
"I would never bring the game into disrepute, I love rugby league and it has given me everything over the past 40 years.
"I was trying to make a point and perhaps I made it in the wrong way, but this result has definitely put the icing on the cake for our club."
With the Ghosts' application to leave Group 2 ready to be taken to the association's annual general meeting next month, the grand final might have been the last time the Rebels and Ghosts meet in the Battle of the River.
A loss that Kinnane believes the group will be feeling for a long time.
"They can say what they like but if it was not for the Ghosts and the Rebels supporters out here today there was nothing. A good crew came up from Sawtell but everywhere we go it is either red and white or blue and white supporters."