By GREG WHITE
AXEMEN chairman Glenn Soper was tingling with excitement as the players left the field for the last time at the completion of the Orara Valley Sevens.
"I'm ecstatic," he grinned while accepting congratulations from all sides.
"It's unbelievably exciting."
"The weekend has more than doubled our expectations."
With a quick calculation of the initial attendance figures, Soper revealed more than 15,000 spectators had enjoyed Coffs Harbour's big week of rugby league.
"We had over 7000 here on Saturday and another 5000 through the gates today (Sunday) for the finals.
"That's after the big roll up at the Stadium on Thursday.
"What a fantastic event it's been."
Soper had an extra excuse for celebration with his club team picking up the inaugural Coffs Coast Advocate Shield for best country club.
"The $1000 winner's cheque will give us a fairly handy amount to put in the bar kitty tonight," a beaming captain coach Matt Donovan said.
"The boys went all right, didn't they."
The boys sure did.
Even the Axemen's most dedicated fans believed they'd be hard pressed to beat Narwan Eels who'd played outstanding football throughout the tournament before bowing out to Malta Knights in the quarter finals.
Orara stunned the Knights with a try in the opening seconds and looked set for an easy win before the visitors came storming home.
In the dying seconds, the Axemen's desperate defence allowed them to sneak home by four points.
"Malta and Lebanon were the two teams I thought were best in the series," Donovan said.
"Taking a line through that form, beating the Eels has been a great result.
"It's confidence - building for the premiership season."
But after a superb weekend of football, the winner's spoils finished for the second consecutive year in the hands of the Lebanon Cedars, much to the excitement of local busines leader and proud Aussie, Tony Simmons.
"I came out to support my grandad's team," Simmons laughed as the Cedar's dragged him off for the team photo.
"The whole event has been sensational."
Just about everyone who attended would agree.
From players to spectators, from former internationals to civic leaders, everyone spent the weekend raving about the phenomenal success the Sevens has achieved in it's brief two year history.
City Mayor and rugby league fanatic Keith Rhoades was left in awe by the tournament.
"You couldn't ask for better than the international matches on Thursday.
"Then, we had a sellout crowd of 300 at the Men of League dinner.
"And if that wasn't enough, perfect weather and two wonderful days of Sevens footy."
The only moment of tension came with Sydney Metro's protest against Auburn's 24-22 win in a quarter final, but with a hearing and eventual dismissal of the objection, the Metro's took their disappointment on the chin.
"We'll get over it," their spokesperson said.
"Nobody wants this to spoil a fantastic carnival."
And the 15,000 who went along, would all agree.