Loss can be a positive: Speed
GRAFTON Ghosts coach Col Speed has gone to unusual lengths, by country rugby league standards, to help the club go one better in this year's Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League competition.
The Ghosts, who kick-off their campaign tomorrow night against the Cudgen Hornets, enter the 2009 season with a steely resolve to erase the bitter memory of a one-point loss to Byron Bay in last season's decider.
So determined are the Ghosts to atone for that disappointment, they were put through a series of army-drills at a motivational camp conducted by hard man Craig Churches at Novotel, Coffs Harbour.
Speed's reason for the camp was simple.
“What I was looking for was that edge which we need in semi-finals football,” Speed said.
That's hardly surprising considering the Ghosts claimed the minor premiership in 2008 before losing two finals, including the decider.
“I wanted to test the guys in different situations ... I wanted to see how they reacted as a team when things got a little tough,” Speed said. “Some were doing it a little tough, one of the guys had to be carried to the finish line.”
Speed said he was expecting tomorrow night's tough trip to Cudgen would provide his squad with a stern first-up test.
“They have picked up some experienced players and will be a lot stronger and tougher,” Speed said.
“They stick to the basics and don't give too much away ... and are always hard to beat up there.”
Ghosts captain Ryan Farrell said he was not too sure what to expect from the new-look Hornets outfit.
“I've got no idea, I haven't heard anything about them at all,” he said.
“They weren't too bad last year, but they weren't real strong.”
Farrell intends to change his game to help the Ghosts take the next step.
“I didn't run the ball too much last year and that's something I got to work on ... taking it to the line a bit more,” he said.
With the Ghosts intense off-season regime completed and a number of new faces settled into their new environment, Farrell made it clear the time for talking was over.
“I'm glad it's (the season) starting,” he said.
“We've been training for a long time now and it's been pretty intense and just lately it's been real intense.
“It would be good to just get out there and get into it.”
The Ghosts will field a near-full strength team tomorrow night, with reigning group player of the year, Aaron Hartmann, sidelined with a hand injury sustained in a pre-season game. Ben McLennan will move to the centres, with Shaun Davison moving into the second-row.
Speed said Hartmann's absence would be a positive, rather than a hindrance, for his squad so early in the season.
“I think, without any disrespect to Hartmann, it will be a good thing in one way with him missing,” he said.
“Last year we were branded as a one-man team, and now we can show everybody that we're not.”
The first grade match will kick-off at 5.30pm tomorrow at Ned Byrne Oval, with a players and supporters bus leaving the Albion Hotel at 10am.