Ghosts and Rhinos set to collide
GHOSTS strengths: Backline, forward pack, bench. Weakness: “The coach.”
Rhinos’ captain/coach Xavier Sullivan has launched an astonishing tirade on his opposite number, setting the scene for an off-field rivalry to match the drama of Sunday’s Grafton derby.
Sullivan and Ghosts’ boss Col Speed have had a strained relationship in 2010, with Sullivan’s comments set to reignite the debate on the eve of the biggest match of the season for both sides.
Sullivan labelled the Ghosts’ coach a “weakness” among the star-studded club and claimed Speed refused to shake hands after their last meeting – an accusation Speed denies.
The Rhinos are aiming to reach their first finals campaign, while the Ghosts’ perfect season is on the line against their closest rivals.
When asked how the two coaches got along, Sullivan replied: “Not very well.”
“I don’t have much time for him,” Sullivan said.
“We only play each other twice in a season, so you have to respect each other when you do play.”
The ladder-leaders won the round 8 contest between the two clubs 62-16.
And Speed said he had a vivid memory of a post-match conversation – and it included a handshake.
“I find that pretty hard to swallow (that Sullivan would say that),” Speed told the Examiner.
Both men will not want their troops to give an inch at McKittrick Park on Sunday.
The clash of the coaches adds to the usual derby flavour.
“There’s always a lot of feeling and heart in these games,” Sullivan said.
“We want to earn our spot in the finals by beating the best.
“We are 10 times the team we were back then (when we lost in round 8).
“Our gelling as a team has come on so much and the Ghosts would be stupid to think that they would win like that again.”
The appearance of injured star Danny Wicks at Ghosts’ training midweek heightened speculation the former NRL prop could make a surprise comeback against the Rhinos.
But Speed denied Wicks would be back, and was confident his current squad would be up to the challenge of finishing the regular season 16-0.
“It would be the highlight (of my career if we were undefeated), not so much for myself but for the blokes who have tried hard all season,” Speed said.
“We play every game like it’s a grand final.
“And it doesn’t matter where each team is on the ladder, it (the Rhinos-Ghosts derby) is always a big game.”
Speed’s men enter the match as heavy favourites, with fans also keeping an eye on the try-scoring deeds of record-chaser Anthony Don.
The match kicks off at 2.45pm and will follow the under-16 women’s contest between South Grafton and Maclean at 12.20pm, as well as the reserves at 1.15pm.