The Maitland Blacks’ controversial last-minute penalty goal loss to Merewether Carlton is a bump on the road, but the team's main goal of a premiership is alive and well.
“A result like that is why we worked so hard for a top-three finish and a double chance,” Blacks co-coach Ryan McCormack said of his team’s resolve not to let their 2018 title quest be derailed.
“We probably only had another 60 seconds to hold on, but the referee called us offside. It was a little dubious, but none the less the decision was made.
“It was not the way we wanted to finish the game after doing all the hard work to get ourselves in front after a charge-down try by Pat Batey.
“To be honest we should never have been in the position that giving away a penalty would lose the game.
“We played particularly poor in patches, little execution things. It was a wet-weather game of football and we just didn’t adjust.
“We’ll learn a lot from that and I guess the advantage is you have a good season and you finish in the top three you get a get out of jail free card.
“We’ve cashed ours in.”
McCormack said the Blacks were best served by John Birrell, Carl Manu and Travis Brooke on Saturday.
“John Birrell got players’ player and three points from (coaches) Mick (Hickling) and myself.
“He was outstanding, his energy levels, his physicality and just his genuine desire out on the field. He was certainly the best player for us.
“Carl (Manu) was another who really stood up and so was Travis (Brooke).
“There were some really strong performances from Nick Davidson, Josh McCormack was strong at the back and Pat got through 80 minutes.
“It’s a learning curve for us, our preparation was a bit clunky and our performance today was a bit clunky.
“But we’ll be right, we get another shot at either Wanderers or Nelson Bay who will no doubt be pretty bruised after this week’s games and onwards and upwards.”
McCormack said there was a real resolve among the playing group to push on and challenge for the title.
“The feel on the field was that we were probably the better side and not playing particularly well,” he said.
“You only had to look around the sheds tonight and see the disappointment in their eyes. They don’t want that feeling again and the chat immediately turned to ‘righto boys lets turn up to training and get ready for next Sunday.”
McCormack said he had enjoyed the challenge of playing scrum-half but was exhausted after 80 minutes and was glad to hand Max Stafford the No.9 jersey back for next week..
“When I got back in the rooms I took my jersey off and handed it to Max and said ‘here you go mate, it’s yours’. Too much running for me, I’m getting too old for that, but I did enjoy it,” he said.
“Max is back next week and we have no real injuries. Mick Howell came off as he had been struggling with a bout of gastro he had during the week.
“Travis got a bit of a knock on the knee, but we came through unscathed and will go into the second week of the finals fit as a fiddle.”