SPOOKY SEASON: Ghosts stare out into the unknown
RUGBY LEAGUE: Just over a fortnight out from the Group 2 season kicking off, Grafton Ghosts first grade coach Danny Wicks admits his side is staring into the unknown.
Carlton Elliott, Cody Hartmann and Brett Wicks have all also left the squad and it is understood game-breaking fullback Mitch Lollback has not been at a Ghosts training session this pre-season.
Ghosts veteran centre Khan Williams, who passed the 350 first grade games milestone last season, is also recovering from off-season knee surgery and is uncertain to strap on the boots this year.
Despite the losses, Wicks is confident players from the Under 18s and reserve grade sides can plug the gaps.
"We have definitely lost a few players from the team last season,” Wicks said. "I think we have averaged about 35 blokes each session across all three grades.
"There is definitely a first grade side there, but it is by no means set in stone.”
The club is expected to struggle for numbers in the reserve grade ranks this season and Wicks worried it might be at the mercy of the club's Clayton Cup success last season.
"I think people have just expected we will run the same exact team we did last year and there would be no chance to break into it,” he said.
"That's not true. We are more than happy to see new blokes at training, and we have an open door policy at the Ghosts.
"We have a good club, and a great committee, so I am sure it will all work itself out before the season.”
The exciting prospect this season for Wicks will be the rise of young gun Cooper Woods, who is hoping to lock down a permanent role in the starting side.
A prolific try-scorer in the Under 18 ranks, Woods made his first grade debut in 2016 scoring a try against Macksville Se Eagles, before making six appearances last season.
"We have got some great players running in our junior ranks who are ready to make the step up,” Wicks said. "We have a good core group of players that have been there for a couple of years as well.
"It is just about using the next two weeks to keep training hard, and put together a first grade side.”
The Ghosts will kick-start its premiership defence with a colossal Battle of the River grand final rematch against South Grafton Rebels at McKittrick Park on April 8.