I was sold a dummy
In the early rounds of 2000 I placed a call from Rex Hardaker Oval where I was calling the game on radio to the graveyard, checking the progress of Bellingen versus Port Macquarie in their first meeting since the Magpies had trumped the Sharks four months before in the grand final.
This time around, Port had smashed Bello.
When I asked what had happened I was told: "Small clubs like our's can't compete against the bigger towns."
Hey, wait a minute, didn't you just beat etc. etc.??
The silence on the line was deafening.
For more than a month the worst kept secret in Group 2 has been the Bellinger Valley - Dorrigo club was in trouble.
So I called secretary Russell Fensom for the facts and you read his strenuous denials of any problem in this column two weeks ago.
In light of what's now happened with the Magpies this week you might question if I'm peeved at being sold an obvious dummy.
You bet I am.
Not because I feel I was led up the garden path but due to something else that again came up in that conversation with Russell.
The preposterous claim was made the Magpies pulled out in 2004 because of something I'd written in this newspaper.
Though every time I've asked for this treachery to be pointed out, no one can seem to find the offending article.
No one disputes Bellingen have a problem getting jobs for players and this makes life difficult.
But other clubs have similar problems and they still manage to be competitive.
It's my contention the root cause of Bellingen's woes are the culture of blame some of their urgers hang on everybody but themselves, the insular nature of the place and the lack of foresight many of their office bearers have shown over the years.
Ten years ago, Jim Anderson expressed his fears on my radio show the Magpies' future was bleak unless a supplementary competition could be found for them to play in and they shouldn't be sitting around waiting for the rot to set in.
Jim was right and many agreed with him yet nobody in the club appeared to take any notice.
I've observed numerous cases where the club has struck trouble and instead of accepting the helping hand being offered, the hand has been bitten.
Many I've spoken to in recent days fear the Magpies will not come back - ever -from this latest blow.
I hope that's not the case.
Too many have shed blood and sweat in that famous black and white jumper for it to be consigned to history.
But nothing good will happen till the old fogies are pushed aside and the younger administrators with fresh ideas and a grip on reality are brought in to replace them.
In coming weeks I expect a lot of people will get the blame for what's happened to the Magpies.
You know, I hear it starting already.
I expect to personally cop plenty for hitting home with some hard truths in this column.
The Comets and Nambucca will get a serve because many ex - Bello players will continue their careers in their colours.
Maybe, Orara will get a verballing for the belting they handed out in the trial last Sunday.
Because there'll some fools up in the hills trying to dodge responsibility for years of neglect when they say: "How can a little club like our's hope to compete with a big town like Coramba?"
Spare me, please.
Grab this opportunity to toss out the dead wood and encourage young people with imagination to revive your fortunes otherwise, it's curtains for sure and certain.
n With Bellingen no longer in the competition we're forced to revise the Call of the Card.
The new betting market is: 10/9 Macksville, 7/4 Woolgoolga, 4/1 Orara Valley and Coffs Harbour, 9/2 Nambucca Heads, 5/1 Sawtell, 7/1 Port Macquarie, 12/1 Macleay Valley and 16/1 Gimbisi Valley.
Go your hardest, lads.