'Own worst enemy': Ghosts aim to bounce back from shock loss
RUGBY LEAGUE: Grafton Ghosts captain Danny Wicks admits his side has plenty to work on this week as they aim to get their quest for back-to-back Group 2 premierships on track.
The Ghosts proved to be their own worst enemy in the major semi-final against Coffs Harbour, with uncharacteristic handling errors leading the Ghosts to a 32-18 loss at home.
The Ghosts returned to near their best in the second-half, winning the final 40 minutes 18-12, but it was not enough to overcome the fast start of the Comets juggernaut.
"We have only got ourselves to blame. We have a job to do now, come back here next week and earn the right to be there in the grand final,” Wicks said after the game.
"From there on in we will see what happens, but I guess if you shoot yourself in the foot that many times you are bound to lose a few toes.”
The Ghosts struggled to contain the Comets forwards in the opening quarter of the match, with the visitors earning multiple back-to-back sets attacking the Grafton line.
The home side was missing the services of Matt Muller, one of the best defensive second-rowers in the competition, but are hopeful he will return in time for the clash with Macksville.
While he was quick to point out where his side could improve, Wicks was also left to question a few decisions from referee Blake Smoothy, with the Ghosts play the ball coming under the official's microscope on several occasions.
"It comes down to ill-discipline in the sense of we got pinged five or six times for not playing the ball correctly, but not once were Coffs Harbour pinged for the same issue,” Wicks said.
"That tells me that they were either looking for it, or we have been getting away with something for the past two years that is now suddenly an issue.”
Wicks said it would be a focus of his side when they return to the training paddock ahead of next week's preliminary final at home.
"I just want my guys to be there ready to fire on Tuesday night, because this thing is not over,” he said.
"Missing out on the grand final at home is a shame, but it doesn't matter how we get to the big dance as long as we get there.”
One man who is expecting the Ghosts to be there on grand final day is victorious Coffs Harbour Comets coach Brandon Costin. The former NRL and Superleague player scored a rare try of his own - his first for the Comets in 28 years - and was proud of his side's fast start.
"We knew if we weren't at our best, we weren't a chance of winning. We really needed to have a level of energy and enthusiasm, to be a part of the contest, and we did that,” Costin said.
"Some things went in our favour, Grafton had the week off, they made a lot of uncharacteristic errors, their completion was very poor. I think it all snowballed to the perfect storm for us.”
While they had stretched the lead to 20-0 at the main break, Costin said it was never a sure thing for the Comets.
"You were always thinking "s--- they scored three tries on us in the space of three minutes last time, you know they're capable”,” he said.
"Then next minute Dylan Collett does an amazing chip and chase in the corner, and all we could think was "here we go again”.
"It got a bit dicey for all of us on the sideline at the end there, but the guys really held on well.
"The grand final is at home, we're into the grand final. There is lots of positives to come from us, but I am always wary of the wounded Ghost.”