Comets and Mustangs game explodes
MACLEAY Valley's 44-32 win over Coffs Harbour in first grade was not the talking point at Kempsey's Verge Street Stadium today.
Instead, Group 2 rugby league has been delivered another black eye from within by its so-called 'diehard supporters' after players and spectators went on a rampage near half time in the reserve grade match.
It forced that game to be abandoned incomplete.
Police presence was required at the venue and another fine mess was created for the management committee to sort out.
Two players from each team were sent off by referee Jim Thompson.
They were Al Lockwood and Craig Smith from the home side and Michael Spence and Blair Blanchette from the visitors.
Officials from the clubs involved are still uncertain whether it was four players or six players sent to the sin bin in that disastrous half of football.
But what occurred when two of the dismissed players met on the walkway back to the dressing rooms is not in dispute and had many witnesses.
It will be alleged at the inquiry that one of the Macleay players waited for a Coffs players and a brawl broke out between them.
Those players are believed to be Al Lockwood and Michael Spence.
At this point the crowd became involved and it will be alleged that beer bottles rained down from the sidelines and on to the field in the direction of players and at least one garbage bin full of rubbish was also thrown at those players still remaining on the arena.
It should be noted that any glass containers are banned from all Group 2 venues.
Group 2 vice-presidents Warren Gilkinson and Scott Mieni were on duty at the match and worked overtime to settle the situation and find some sense in it all.
"It's believed the identity of some crowd members who got involved is known and we are pushing for that information to be handed to the police," Gilkinson said.
Not only was the sending off of the two Comets players calamitous for their grade but the issue compounded the disaster first grade coach Steve Gooley soon found himself in.
"We have only just got Michael Spence back in town and I was trying to fly him under the radar," he revealed.
"Both he and Blair Blanchette were earmarked as reserves for first grade but losing them for the day only made a bad situation much, much worse."
Gooley admits the first grade encounter was lost early in the opening half.
"We let them score too many tries and their little hooker (Cecil Lardner) did a carve-up on us," he said.
"Right on the half time bell we had a try disallowed and when they came straight back and scored first up after the break, that was almost the ball game."
Well ... not quite.
Coffs Harbour's day crashed completely when referee Jason Townley sent off winger James Sanders for alleged dissent leaving the Comets to fend for the final 30 minutes with 12 men.
"If there's one good thing we came back strong and scored some points late in the game," Gooley added.
"But the damage is done and we need to win all remaining games for any hope of a top three finish.
"Right at the moment, I'd be happy with one win."
Today's calamity is not the only inquiry that Group 2 is holding at the moment.
Evidence is still being considered from another incident at Woolgoolga on July 1 when it's alleged two male and one female spectators became involved in a sideline melee near the end of the first grade clash between the Seahorses and Sawtell.
MACLEAY VALLEY MUSTANGS 44 (C Lardner 2 P Thaiday D Ritchie S Moran A Cowan P Griffen T Donovan tries A Cowan 5 S Moran goals) bt COFFS HARBOUR COMETS 32 (R Hall T Blanchette J Noble S Street N Curry A Penese tries S Street 4 goals)
At Verge Street Stadium, West Kempsey
Referee: Jason Townley
Reserve grade: Macleay Valley 14 Coffs Harbour 6 (match abandoned incomplete and subject of investigation)
Under 18s: Macleay Valley bt Coffs Harbour 34-18