By MITCHELL DALE
NAMBUCCA Rugby League Club secretary, Max Jennings, and at least one high-profile player, have quit the club as a result of the registration-gate drama that cost the Roosters a place in the 2004 VB Group 2 finals. Nambucca coach Mark Morrison would not name the player but confirmed he was one of the Roosters' brightest stars. However, Morrison could not be prouder of how the club handled the shattering blow of losing six competition points for fielding an unregistered player. The penalty, enforced on the eve of Nambucca's first finals appearance since 2000, wrenched the Roosters from fifth to equal last on the ladder. After three lean seasons, Morrison moulded the Roosters into a competitive force this season and he hopes the end-of-season drama will not drag the club back into the doldrums. The astute coach praised his players for 'rising above the drama' and predicted most of the 2004 squad will remain at Coronation Park next year. "These guys had their hearts ripped out, but they have said 'let's just get on with it, we had a good year and we can be proud with what we've done'," he said. "It is great to be mates with these guys, but it's an honour to coach them. "Initially a couple spat the dummy and talked about offers they received from other clubs, but I think about 90 per cent will be back. "One bloke won't be back; he was absolutely devastated by what happened and, unfortunately, he was one of our best players." Morrison confirmed Jennings resigned over the incident, but absolved the former secretary of any blame. "Max has resigned, but that is definitely not due to team pressure, it is from pressure he felt inside him," Morrison said. Morrison, like most Nambucca players and supporters, feel the penalty does not fit the crime. "I think it is a very harsh penalty to kick a team out of the finals because of one mistake," he said. "We never tried to pull the wool over anyone's eyes, it was a mistake. "We have been treated the same as a team that deliberately played any player who was in town for the weekend without a clearance or registration. "I think (Group 2) needs to recognise that the blokes doing these jobs are volunteers; they are overworked and . . . I can't say underpaid because they aren't paid anything." Morrison also spoke about the devastation felt by the Roosters when the penalty was handed down. "I've carried around a wry smile for a long time," he said. "Personally, it hasn't been hard because they achieved my goals; they were one of the top five teams in the competition. "I am more shattered for the players. "Hopefully this will not be a setback, but mentally the players are going to have to get over it." Morrison hopes it will galvanise the side for next season. "But hopefully I won't have to use it as motivation."