Farrell and Hartmann aim to end as champs
THEY are both Grafton Ghosts juniors; both left to join NRL clubs, and both came back to win premierships for the blue-and-whites.
But tomorrow's Group 2 grand final could see the curtain finally drawn on the careers of club legends Aaron Hartmann and Ryan Farrell.
"I don't want to use the word 'retire' but it will be a year off for me next year," Hartmann said.
A premiership would be a dream end to the 29-year-old's career, but the centre was not overconfident.
"It's setting for it. It's a great way to go out with a home grand final," Hartmann said.
"There's always a good build-up to these games. I'm confident in our boys and our ability to get the job done."
The Ghosts come into the big dance with a strong record against the Comets, with their last two games, both in Ghosts' territory, ending with big wins .
"We won't focus on those results. Nobody remembers who won in round 10; everyone remembers the grand final," Hartmann said.
Hartmann's memory of his first game of first grade as a 17-year-old in 2003 is one that brought a smile to his face during the week but probably left him in pain on the day.
"Dean Callaway (captain-coach) threw me a hospital ball and I got smashed," he said.
He then spent four seasons with Newcastle Knights where he cracked a Premier League side coached by current Sydney Roosters mentor Trent Robinson..
While he didn't quite reach the top grade, the experience was one the 29-year-old wouldn't forget.
"That experience was good, bad and everything in between," Hartmann said.
"I had a few great opportunities down there and while I didn't get to NRL it put me in good stead for the rest of my footy career and as PE teacher.
"It was a tough juggle and got quite demanding when I interned for 10 weeks.
"We trained at 5am for a few hours, then I'd work all day and we'd have training afterwards. After that I'd have to do assignments and all that."
Farrell is not exactly a stranger to making retirement plans but the Ghosts captain-coach is adamant this will be the last game he plays.
He intended to retire last year but soon found himself back on the paddock and chasing a Group 2 premiership.
It seems to be the real deal this time around however, with family and the threat of serious injury overriding sport.
"I'm 100% this will be my last game of football," Farrell said.
"I've been lucky with injuries and I don't want to finish with a major injury. I've got three little kids and the wife at home so I think it's time."
Farrell debuted at 16 off the bench and earned a similar welcome to first grade.
He left the club to join Manly Sea Eagles, and after several years there and at Lakes United and Woolgoolga returned to the Ghosts in 2008.
He took over from Col Speed as Ghosts coach in 2012, and is now presented with his best chance of a breakthrough premiership with the clipboard.