Warriors will play on in 2006
By GREG WHITE
FOLLOWING a season of on- and off-field dramas that frequently reached boiling point, the Gimbisi Valley club was accepted into the 2006 Group 2 competition at Sunday's annual general meeting, with barely a murmur.
After all the controversy, the vote to accept the Warriors was almost an anti-climax.
Under the new system, each club is required to state their case for admission and members proceed to vote them in or out.
Working alphabetically, the Bellingen/Dorrigo Valley and Coffs Harbour presidents made their submissions and promptly had their organisations welcomed back into the fold.
As Warriors president Tony Gray rose to state his case, all eyes turned in his direction and ears were cocked to hear what the softly spoken delegate had to say.
"Our club wants to put what happened behind us and hopes each of you will do the same," Gray stated.
"As you requested, the anger management programs with the players at fault have been successfully completed and a code of conduct has been issued to every member."
When Group chairman Greg Mayhew asked if any questions were to be put to Gray, the room sat silent.
Mayhew asked a second time before Referees Association president David Dunn put a brief question to Gray.
"What measures have you taken to improve crowd control?," Dunn enquired.
"A ground manager has been appointed and security has been upgraded," Gray replied, an answer that seemed to satisfy Dunn and other delegates.
Orara Valley's John Cullen then asked if the Warriors would sell alcohol at home games.
"No," was Gray's instant reply.
And so, the voting began.
When returning officer, CRL boss Warren Kimberley, announced the Gimbisi application had been successful, the meeting broke into brief applause before business moved on to Macksville, the next club seeking entry.
"Of course I'm pleased it went smoothly," Gray told the Coffs Coast Advocate. "What went wrong can happen to anyone.
"We didn't condone it and will work towards nothing like that happening again."
While the ballot was secret and no count was released, informed sources say only two or four votes at most, from a strength of 28, may have gone against the Warriors.
With no conditions or strings attached to the club, it means Gimbisi Valley is finally a fully fledged member of the Group.
Some tension still exists, however, with Kempsey neighbours Macleay Valley.
Mustangs secretary Charlie Bowen asked to have the two clubs separated in any pre-season draw, at least until the clubs could meet to discuss some differences, and Gray added his agreement.
During a break, Gray admitted senior coach Willy Lockwood, one of the player's involved in the controversial events of 2005 and currently under suspension, may not continue in his role.
"We are conducting fresh interviews," he said.
Ironically, Lockwood has been linked to Port Macquarie, the club he once played for.
The same club where the events of July 3 brought matters to a head.
If there was a single moment when peace was finally declared it came when treasurer Jim Anderson leaned across to speak with Gray.
"You can see we're not against you, Tony," Anderson said.
"You are one of us and we'll worked through problems with you when you have them."
Gray replied: "That's all we ask, Jim."