Life?s now black and white for Brad
By GREG WHITE
FOR some folk it won't be the same . . . but they'd better get used to it.
From the green and gold of Orara Valley to the black and white of Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo, it's been quite a transition for Brad Hart.
"Even mum has been asking for a supporters shirt and dad is just as keen after all the stories he told me when I was growing up about playing the Magpies in their golden era," Hart said.
The all-time rugby league great admits his new job delivered a fresh burst of enthusiasm after his career began to stagnate.
"Injuries were a problem in my last two seasons at the Axemen and I would have stopped playing if Matt (Donovan) hadn't been coaching but the change has made me keener than ever," he said.
Hart's first official duty occurs at 12.30pm on Saturday when he hosts a 'meet the coaches' afternoon at Diggers Tavern with Mick Magnay (reserve) and Maurie Hulbert (under-18).
"By sheer chance it's a race day," Hart grinned.
"When I told the committee I like a beer and a bet they said I'd settle in well with this club.
"Many of the former Magpie greats are coming along and we'll be bonding with the new faces. It's the kind of close friendship and spirit that will help us back to the top."
For a club considered close to the scrapheap just over a year ago, the Bellingen revival has been stunning.
"The return continues to gather momentum with an amazing amount of interest shown not just by the local players keen to return to the 'graveyard', but also via the good, honest local businesses keen to get on board," club official Peter Denham said.
In fact, Denham himself ? considered one of the clubs finest products ? is almost certain to come out of retirement and pull on a jumper.
"That's how keen everybody's become," Hart said.
"Pete, Steve Gyde, Russ Fensom and the rest of the boys have been chasing players from everywhere and the good feeling just grows and grows."
Heading the charge is the return of tackling machine Anthony Fensom from Nambucca Heads with two former captain-coaches of the black and whites rumoured to have been enticed back to town for another run.
"We won't be going hammer-and-tong from the start and putting unrealistic expectations on everybody," Hart said.
"All three grades will be part of a plan where momentum builds across the season.
"Leave it until the middle of the year before asking about our chances for the play-offs."