Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Community Spirit in Sport

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Community Spirit in Sport

Article excerpt

Byline: GREG WHITE

THIS is the tale from two cities, last weekend.

Your scribbler enjoyed the best of times (and none of the worst) at a football match on Bellingen Park during Saturday's twilight ... before heading down to Coffs Harbour Jetty the following morning where hundreds of swimmers from near and far, immersed themselves in the glorious waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Firstly . . . Saturday evening at 'the graveyard' where the Australian Army Thunder rugby league team was engaged in athletic combat with the pride and joy of the Valley and Plateau, the Magpies.

This occasion was to honour the memory of a favourite son of both teams, Sergeant Matthew Locke, taken long before his time on a faraway battlefield in Afghanistan, a place he'd probably not heard about while playing junior footy with Bello.

Even before the game began - with a crowd of a size nobody imagined, rolling in through the gates - one took a look at what was happening.

In what other country would you see the supremo of the nation's army, a Lieutenant General no less with a couple of letters after his name signifying commendations for bravery, moving through the crowd (without bodyguards) and quite happy to have his stubby holder filled to share a drink with the locals?

Well done, Ken Gillespie, and how typically Australian to see you sitting in the grandstand among your footballers with no distinction between officers and other ranks, because enjoying a game of country football was more important than protocol?

On the field, the Thunder quickly established their authority and for a while it looked like their size, speed, fitness and all-round excellence would carry the day.

But with a couple of the boys away in Victoria fighting fires, the lack of a reserve bench eventually proved their undoing.

They hit the front early but those mighty Magpies opened up, much to the joy of thousands in the partisan crowd.

That all-round good bloke and certified football genius Bradley Hart sealed the Army's fate when he took a ball close to his own line, then put Ray Carr into a gap as wide as Sydney Heads.

On halfway, Ray flipped this freakish behind-the-back flick pass that's impossible to describe, into the hands of long, lean Matt Bush and the big-striding centre sealed the deal with the kind of spectacular try destined to have spectators flocking to see Bellingen in the 2009 Group 2 season. …

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