THE BATTLE OF TWO CITIES
THE challenge has been set: your city loses, your town flies the opposition flag above its council chambers for one week.
When the Sawtell Panthers go into Sunday's Group 2 rugby league grand final against Port Macquarie Sharks they will not only be playing for glory, but to spare Coffs Harbour the embarrassment of having the Port MacquarieHastings emblem soaring across its skies.
A friendly war of words has erupted between Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades and his Port Macquarie-Hastings counterpart Rob Drew in anticipation of the big first grade clash.
Yesterday Cr Drew confidently challenged Cr Rhoades to fly the Port Macquarie-Hastings flag for one week if Sawtell loses.
"One day is rubbish for such a good clash of league," he said.
"If this game is worthy of anything, it needs to be a week (flying the opposition flag) and I've got a brand new flag waiting for Keith Rhoades to take back with him.
"Obviously it's a grand final so it's going to be a hard game, but I'm expecting the Sharks to come over the top with all their players back from injury."
But Cr Rhoades says he is on a sure winner and the Coffs Harbour City Council flag will be staying in Port Macquarie.
What it comes down to, he says, is fitness and coaching.
"On fitness, who knows if Sawtell deliberately wanted to lose to Woolgoolga three weeks ago so they could play every week leading up to the grand final and improve their match fitness," he said.
"And this is the part about a good coach. Craig Wallace would have to have the best skills in Group 2 and that tactic to play may be the difference. Port Macquarie has only played two games in four weeks.
"I'm looking forward so much to leaving Coffs' flag to my friend Rob Drew."