Ghosts open season with untidy shellacking at home
RUGBY LEAGUE: At times it was ugly, and at others it was nothing short of brilliant but in the end it was the two points that Grafton Ghosts captain-coach Danny Wicks wanted to come away with in the first round of Group 2 rugby league.
It was an old fashioned shellacking for the Nambucca Heads Roosters as a healthy crowd at Frank McGuren Field watched the Ghosts run in nine tries to four in a 54-20 drubbing.
It was a day for the returning faithful as a rampaging Brett Wicks snared a double, while crowd favourite Tim Tilse showed no signs of aging and Matt Muller proved he had lost nothing behind the kicking tee as he nailed all nine conversion attempts.
"To be honest, a win is a win, but it was very sloppy,” Wicks said. "I think there is a couple of reasons for that, we have not trained on the field for about three weeks and it hurts with our structures.
"What we have been trying in training was showing through, but we were just trying too hard to pop those extra passes.
"Those little things can be improved upon, and as long as there is room for improvement we will find it.”
Despite fielding early pressure on their goal line after a dropped ball and early penalty, the Ghosts returned fire up the middle of the Roosters pack before spreading wide to find Brett Wicks crashing across to open their account.
Not afraid to find the chalk, Dylan Collett was the next to score for the Ghosts, falling on the end of a Mitch Lollback grubber for the first of a hat trick of tries.
Nambucca wrestled the game back in their favour as talented halfback Jay Melrose connected with his brother Brogan at fullback to punch two tries through the Ghosts' defence and bring the scores back level.
However, that was all she wrote for the Nambucca Heads side in the first half, as the Ghosts continued to punch holes through the middle of a tiring forward pack.
Fullback Mitch Lollback crashed across under the sticks and Danny Wicks put an exclamation on his homecoming with a four pointer of his own as the Ghosts headed to the main break in front 24-12.
An unforgivable penalty for offside at the second half kick-off gifted Nambucca good field position, which they were quick to capitalise on as a lucky bounce from a Melrose chip fell for centre Jacob Welsh to grab a double.
The Ghosts' lack of discipline at times in the contest was a sore point, with the home side on the wrong end of an 8-5 penalty count.
"That just comes down to frustration, and it is discipline to a degree,” Wicks said. "We still have a lot of things to work on and discipline is one of those things.”
The Roosters struggled for numbers on the afternoon, forfeiting the reserve grade clash at the 11th hour, and the lack of bodies on the bench began to show as fatigue set in during the second half.
Roosters' playing coach Matt Field said the side knew they had "their backs up against the wall” before they even got on the bus up the highway.
"It sure was a tough one,” he said. "Ghosts are the premiership favourites, they are a great outfit and they are only going to get better as the season gets longer.
"I take my hat off to our boys though; we didn't have a bench, we didn't have a starting second rower, and we were picking people out of the crowd to throw on a jersey. I reckon up until the 60th minute we were right in the game.”
It was after the 60th minute when Dylan Collett crossed for his third after a fortuitous bounce from a Ghosts' kick-off landed at the feet of Blake Winmill, who toed it through for his centre.
Khan Williams crashed across for a deserving four pointer after that, before Brett Wicks rounded out the afternoon with a brace of tries to give the Ghosts a 34-point victory.
"There was a lot of good individual performances out there,” Danny Wicks said. "I think the big positive is that we didn't lose our sense of direction or what we were looking to achieve.
"I don't think the score quite reflects how the boys went; I thought it was a pretty even game.”
SCOREBOARD: GRAFTON GHOSTS 54 (Dylan Collett 3, Brett Wicks 2, Mitch Lollback 2, Danny Wicks, Khan Williams tries; Matt Muller 9 goals) def NAMBUCCA HEADS ROOSTERS 20 (Jacob Welsh 2, Brogan Melrose, James Wernier tries; B Melrose 2 goals)