EXCLUSIVE: Danny Wicks to captain-coach Ghosts in 2017
RUGBY LEAGUE: Former Parramatta Eels hardman Danny Wicks has already begun writing the next chapter of his career, agreeing to come on board as captain-coach of the Grafton Ghosts for 2017.
Wicks, who had only signed a two-year contract extension with the Eels earlier this year, retired from the National Rugby League last week to return home to the Clarence Valley.
Now the Ghosts junior will be returning to his spiritual home at Frank McGuren Field as the club pushes to dethrone 2016 premiers and cross-river rivals South Grafton Rebels.
It was music to the ears of Ghosts president Joe Kinnane, who said the club has made the "turnaround of the century" since a dismal turnout at their annual general meeting a fortnight ago.
"Danny is a local junior coming back home to his club," Kinnane said. "It has made a big, big difference to the Ghosts.
"Two weeks ago we couldn't even get anyone to our AGM and on Monday at our 'crisis meeting' it was standing room only.
"We had more people at the meeting than we have ever had since the dark days of amalgamation."
Wicks will bring plenty of star power to the Ghosts and it could not have come at a better time for the club after losing 2016 Group 2 Best and Fairest player Ryan Binge to the Lower Clarence Magpies next year.
The loss of Binge, a regular metre eater, had left a gaping hole in the Ghosts' front line but the inclusion of an NRL grade player has filled that and then some.
"He will definitely shore up our front-row stocks after losing Bingey, he has been playing great for Parramatta these last two seasons," Kinanne said.
"He has a fantastic work rate on the field, he certainly has not lost any of that since his days with the Ghosts.
"You only have to look at the comments from (Eels coach) Brad Arthur and club officials down there. The strength of his calibre is held in high regard all the way from the top down."
Taking over the role at the Ghosts will be the closing chapter in the story of redemption for Wicks, who returned to the NRL after missing four years of league action due to a drug trafficking conviction.
The 'crisis meeting' held earlier this week was a success for the Ghosts, with all executive positions filled and a strong 15-person committee elected.
Kinnane will once again take the reins as president, with trusted secretary Ray Crispin also re-elected. The treasurer's role vacated by Gary Berry will be filled by John Lysaught.
Kinanne had been adamant he would not stand again up to two weeks ago but a revamp of the Grafton Ghosts Old Boys committee and the support of an extended committee lured the stalwart back to the top job.
"With the Old Boys promising to get behind the club and help out, it has taken some of the workload off the president's role," he said.
"There was also not anybody with previous experience putting their hand up. For someone to come in now with no experience it would have been very tough.
"The amount of people we had at that meeting has really restored the faith in the club. I have got the greatest confidence heading into next year. I'm excited."
The Old Boys has been revamped under the new leadership of Ryan Farrell, Gary Smith and Graeme Rickwood.