GHOSTS GUTTED: 'It could not have ended any worse'
RUGBY LEAGUE: A little over 12 months ago Grafton Ghosts captain-coach Danny Wicks stood proud on the surface of Frank McGuren Field after his side obliterated the Macksville Sea Eagles 108-0.
In the dressing sheds on Sunday, Wicks could not have cut a more different figure after the same Macksville mob had eliminated his side from Group 2 grand final contention.
The 19-12 loss was the Ghosts second in as many weeks - the same amount as they had all season - and had the minor premiers crashing out of the Group 2 finals in straight sets.
"It could not have ended any worse," Wicks said. "We are gutted."
The ultimate professionals of Group 2 were outworked and outclassed by a willing Sea Eagles, with the Macksville side quickly becoming the fairytale story of the season.
Wicks said his side was on the wrong end of the momentum from the outset and put the onus on the tough major semi-final war they had come out of the week before.
"I honestly get the feeling that last week just took it out of us, we put everything into that game against Coffs Harbour," he said.
"We prepared pretty well during the week, the spirits were high. It is tough this time of the year, we made some changes midweek based on what I thought we were missing against Coffs and it didn't work.
"Take nothing away from Macksville, they were among the top three forward packs all season, and they just kept coming at us."
Much in the same vein as the previous week against the Comets, Wicks believed his side was its own worst enemy in the preliminary final, with the Ghosts having given up several opportunities and lacking creative fifth tackle options.
They also failed to take advantage of a swirling wind behind their sails in the opening half of football.
"In the first half we did not capitalise on the wind, we completed at 55 per cent. We had the advantage of the wind in the first half, but couldn't find our kick four or five times. You're never going to win games that way.
"It's the old adage how many times can you shoot yourself in the foot before you start losing toes?
"We have great football players in this team, we have heaps of talent across the park, but we were just missing that one person to stand up and spark something."