Casualties mount for Ghosts after Sawtell shock
RUGBY LEAGUE: They started the first-grade clash without several big names, and it only went downhill for the Grafton Ghosts who finished their clash against Sawtell Panthers with one man left on the bench.
It was the Ghosts' first loss in first grade since the 2016 grand final at McKittrick Park, but it was the loss of troops that hurt captain-coach Danny Wicks more than the 24-22 scoreline.
Wicks failed to finish the match, coming from the field with a suspected groin tear, while brother Brett failed to take part in the second half.
But it was Blake Winmill, who played in the centres in place of the lethal Dylan Collett, who was the biggest loss for the Ghosts.
Winmill was taken to hospital with a dislocated shoulder, and it is uncertain when the utility will be back.
There was more ice on bodies than on beers after the clash, as the home side was left to count the casualties.
The Ghosts were battered, bruised but most importantly beaten, as the Panthers sent a message to Group 2.
"They turned up and they deserved to win because they out-muscled us,” Brett Wicks said. "We had a few blokes out on the sidelines, but there is no excuse for the loss.”
While Collett is still at least a week away, the Ghosts also lost workhorse prop Adam Slater to a redback spider bite on Friday night. It is understood he will be back for next weekend.
"Those guys made a huge difference for our side. Having no Dyl and no Slatsy in the middle just killed us,” Wicks said. "But it was just a good wake-up call. As Danny said, we were probably getting too cocky after going undefeated through last year.”
For Wicks it was the first time he had felt a muscle tear, and he said it was like nothing he had felt before.
"It was the most pain I have felt in my life, it is like a stabbing burn in my arm,” he said.
"I am bloody nervous, I am not out there with the boys and I don't know how long it will be for me.”