Bellingen back in business
By MITCHELL DALE
A RESURRECTION, a re-birth, a second coming... call it what you want but the bottom line is that the Magpies are back.
The day many Bellingen fans thought they would never see again has arrived and the Magpies, after a one-year hibernation, are back in first grade.
But, standing between them and a happy return are the new-look Woolgoolga Seahorses, led by NRL veteran John Cross.
The Seahorses have been one of the form sides of the pre-season trials with wins over Coffs Harbour and Nambucca, but Cross has been around long enough to realise that means nothing now.
"It counts for zippo," Cross says frankly, adding that Woolgoolga's preparation for the big game could have been better.
"We have been a bit flat at training this week, but everyone is very keen and I am sure we'll be fine once we get out there in front of our home crowd."
But Cross is also wary of the returning Magpies.
"History says that, in country football, sides who have been out for a few years generally play well early in their comeback season," Cross says.
"I'm sure they will be very keen to get a win, but we will be as well."
Magpies' captain-coach Blair Sankey says drawing Woolgoolga at home first-up is a tough assignment.
"It will be very hard up there," Sankey says.
"If we can get a win it will be a good confidence booster and good for our first home game (against Nambucca Heads in round two)."
Bellingen manager Matthew Nolan says the team is eager to become part of the next chapter in the Magpies' proud history.
"Everyone is keen to get out there and have a game of footy," Nolan says.
"We will go out there and play our own game, we can't be worried about what Woopi will be doing."