There’s no doubt Saturday’s elimination semi-final defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Macquarie Raiders’ captain-coach Zac Rennick.
The Dubbo club trailed early in the do-or-die night clash against Group 11 rivals Parkes at Jock Colley Field but clawed its way back to a 12-10 deficit mid-way through the second half.
The blue and whites then threatened to take the lead, but a no-try call on hooker Matt Lane ultimately put to bed the Raiders’ resurgence in 2017.
After Lane was ruled to have knocked on in attempting to plant the ball down next to the right-hand upright, Spacemen centre Jake Porter scored down the other end of the field in the ensuing set to push the score to its final margin, 16-10.
Rennick said his side’s late-season surge was brought about by a shift in culture, one sure to push the Macquarie club further up the Group 11 ladder in 2018.
“From last year’s squad we’ve got 12 new blokes, that’s a big turnover of players in the off season,” Rennick said.
“We’re trying to create a culture and you can see in the last month of footy that we’ve turned things around from the start of the year. We’ve been more clinical.
“We’ve trained hard all year and it’s shown. We can look to the future.”
Still, a look to the future didn’t completely wash away the pain of coming so close to snatching an elimination semi-final win.
“I hate losing. I’m not a sore loser, but it’s doesn’t matter if I’m playing cards, I still go out there to win,” he said.
“Disappointed is an understatement, but you can’t win every one.”
Rennick acknowledged the significance in the Lane no-try call, one Parkes scored immediately after, but refused to put any blame for his side’s demise on the officials.
“It’s tough. I’m not blaming the refs, they did a great job, but it can turn a game and a season. They go 80 metres and score, “Rennick said.
“I’d hate to be in their shoes. They’re good all year, great to deal with and they’re only out there doing a job, not to pick sides.
“They see a call and call what’s in front of them. Credit to Simon and Troy Warner, they’ve done a good job this year.”
Rennick was hopeful of being able to build into the new year with the core from this year’s side, Josh Merritt and young backrower Luke Gale two of Macquarie’s best in the loss.