Gutsy Ghosts performance sets up local league dream final
RUGBY LEAGUE: Despite being relegated to only one man on the bench for all of the second half, the Grafton Ghosts toughed out a gutsy 32-6 victory to ensure a local derby Group 2 grand final.
Following one of their most polished performances of the season against Sawtell Panthers, the Ghosts appeared sluggish out of the gates against the Coffs Harbour Comets giving halfback Nathan Curry too much space to move.
It has been a regular issue for the Grafton side this season, but after a blazing start the week before, it was thought to be one they had left behind.
But if their start was sluggish, it was basically the only negative to come out of the performance as the Ghosts slowed down into their methodical pace to grind out the Comets and punch their grand final tickets.
"We definitely didn't start good like we have been, but the thing I was proud about is we still hung in there,” McLennan said. "Even though we were playing s**t footy, we still hung in there and defended for each other and they only got the one try all game.
"We came back at half time, we had a good yarn, and we went back out there and the boys knew exactly what we wanted to do. It is just the sign of a good team, we can turn it around when we need to.”
McLennan shed a few tears as he walked off Geoff King Motors Oval, knowing he had captained his beloved Ghosts to the grand final, a first local derby affair since 1977.
"The boys today, just, we had shit first half and we lost three of our boys to injury but our guys just dug deep and I couldn't be happier,” he said.
"[The grand final] is what we work for all year. We start pre-season training in November, we bust our arses right the way through to now.
"But you know we still have one game to go and it is going to be a very tough game. [The Rebels] are a very good side, and they're at home with their vocal crowd.
McLennan was quick to praise his star-studded halves pairing of Jake Frame and Jayden Connors, the latter who is now staring down back-to-back premierships after leading Inverell Hawks to the Group 19 gong last year.
Connors was magical putting in a chip-and-chase off a set scrum move with the seconds counting down to the half time hooter. The halfback slid in under the posts to break the deadlock giving the Ghosts the lead and momentum into the sheds.
"He scares the shit out of me, but he knows what he's doing” the captain said. "It's like what I said to him on the field, that's what happens when you kick the footy around a backyard your whole life - he just knows what way its going to bounce.
"Jaydo is a freak, he pulled us out of some s**t a couple of times today. The two of them are premiership winning halves, and it is awesome.
"To lose Nick Monckton, he's been there all year for us, he's gotten us to where we are now, and to lose him but be able to replace him with Framey, it is a blessing.”
The Ghosts will now retreat back to the training paddock to go about their business ahead of the Group 2 grand final local derby showdown at McKittrick Park on Sunday. Under 18s action will be kicking off from 11am with the main game on at 2.30pm.