Macleay Valley Mustangs coach Russell Lardner has slammed unnecessary distractions in the lead up to their major semi-final 28-26 defeat against the Wauchope Blues in Kempsey last Sunday.
Group Three had made it public they were contemplating moving the grand final away from Kempsey, if they were to win the major semi-final.
Lardner claims the comments from Group Three chairman Wayne Bridge had a negative impact on his players.
"There were a lot of distractions created from what the group had said to us," Lardner told the Argus.
"The boys were talking about it at training all week. I tried to tell them not to worry about it but I could tell it was playing on their minds.
"We had worked hard all year to put ourselves in a position to play to host the grand final but we felt like it was taken away from us and it was a kick in the guts."
While Lardner was disappointed the group interfered with their preparation, he concedes his side had opportunities to win the game but they weren't good enough on the day.
"We trailed by two points for the final 25-minutes but we couldn't complete a set, gave away too many penalties and went away from our game plan," Lardner said.
"The loss hurt a lot, we wanted the right to host the grand final.
"I think the pressure got to everyone, it was stuck in our heads and was hard to get out."
The Mustangs have a second chance to book their ticket to the Group Three grand final when they host the Port City Breakers at Verge Street Oval this Sunday.
Macleay Valley escaped with two narrow wins against the Breakers in the regular season, claiming 15-8 and 32-28 victories.
A distraction free week has been a blessing for the minor premiers, who will head into the preliminary final with a basic game plan.
"It's simple for us. We need to complete our sets, be disciplined and turn up ready to go and then I know we will get the win," Lardner said.
"We need to run out onto the field fresh and with a clear mind, focused on the task at hand."
The Mustangs and Breakers clash kicks off at 3pm, but the preliminary finals commence with the Ladies League Tag at 11.30am.
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