Understrength Ghosts survive

THERE'S no doubt rugby league is a tough game. In the modern era the game has developed into a survival of the fittest.

It's faster, players are bigger and ‘wrestlemania' has taken over defensive patterns.

So imagine playing almost the entire game with only six players in your defensive line.

On Saturday the Grafton Ghosts under-18 side did just that.

With two markers and a fullback guarding the kick, the Ghosts relied on a front line defence of half a dozen players.

The remarkable thing is they managed to hold on to record a 20-all draw against Casino which was enough to book them a place in this week's NRRRL Charity Shield grand final

Heading into the match last year's premiers fielded 10 players.

No Jake Frame, Oliver Percy or even the talented Lennon brothers Sam or Jake. In fact up to eight regular players were unavailable.

Battling to stay in the game they then suffered another blow losing Kieran Stewart halfway through the second half with a shoulder injury.

Down by just four points at half-time the Ghosts' juniors rallied to score two unanswered tries to take a 20-12 lead.

Hanging on by a thread and with players literally off their feet, Casino levelled the game with two quick tries in the final five minutes.

Credit should be given to those players who must have entered the game knowing they would be under the pump from the opening whistle.

Their amazing effort against the odds underlines a special winning culture the Ghosts have developed over the years.

Most teams would have thrown the towel in, made excuses and just went through the motions on the field.

But not the Ghosts.

They played for each other and proved if you want something bad enough you can achieve anything on the sporting field.

According to Ghosts first grade coach Col Speed the under-18's effort was one of the best performances he's witnessed on a rugby league field – and who would argue

However, reading the Casino RSM rugby league website you'd think the Cougars were the heroes on the day.

“The under-18's led for most of the game but ended up coming away with a draw. This is a great effort and sets them up well for the year,” the article read.

I know being positive – particularly where juniors are involved – is an important factor to a team's success.

But leaving out such an important detail as the opposition were down to only nine players is a bit rich.

In a repeat of last year's NRRRL grand final the Ghosts will be up against Ballina on Sunday in a bid to take home the pre-season Charity Shield

While on the Charity Shield the Ghosts' first grade side play Grafton Rhinos in the play-off for third and fourth.

And according to the current NRRRL draw they meet each other in rounds 3 and 6.

So much for a block-buster game late in the season which has been a tradition in the past.

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