City get home in close match
By GREG WHITE
WHILE the metropolitan media were quick to paint Thursday's City Origin vs Country Origin match as dull and disappointing, the participants were much more subtle, polite and even downright funny when asked for opinions in the post-match press conference.
"Like being at Henson Park," City Origin coach Tim Sheens said of the 8276 crowd, with the slightest hint of a smile behind that deadpan gaze.
Most missed the humour but he was referring to an era when Newtown Jets played before two men and a very enthusiastic dog and '8000' was religiously posted as the attendance figure.
The laconic Mr Sheens fairly sparkled when asked by Coffs Coast Advocate journalist Michelle Day if the rugby league caravan would be returning any time soon.
"That's a matter for the NRL," he replied, his six polite words full of meaning and the closest he got to a full-blown grin.
The game itself was fairly lame, and former NSW Country and current Australian Indigenous junior coach, Scott Mieni, explained why.
"All defensive with very limited attack," he said, trying hard to offer a positive spin.
"With the game so heavily based around the forwards it was difficult for the backs to be constructive."
But for all the negativity about the pure mechanics of football, thousands took extreme pleasure seeing up close and personal faces usually glimpsed in newspapers or on television.
Matthew Johns (in a suit) was asked the whereabouts of alter-ego, Reg Reagan.
"Don't know who you're talking about," he laughed, while happily signing autographs.
Preston Campbell was mobbed wherever he appeared and had to be dragged away from the young fans to get down to business.
When Mario 'Maltese Falcon' Fenech arrived on the field, dozens of kids on the hill offered instant recognition.
"Mario, Mario, Mario..." they chanted, getting a huge smile in return.
But the final word was uttered by Country Origin coach Craig Bellamy, clearly shell-shocked by the 12-6 loss.
The passionate Bellamy who always looks like he carries the world on his shoulders was brief and blunt in his answers, yet enormously courteous.
"This match is important from an historical viewpoint," he said.
"It's vital to country people."
Anyone who knows him will tell you he meant it.