Magpies lose one
WHEN chief playmaker Danny Russell headed for the coast to link up with Sawtell, the Bellingen Magpies promised it wouldn’t take long to find a replacement.
Within days they’d snared former New Zealand Warriors’ halfback Trent Wallace, along with a specialist hooker and a pair of back row forwards, all part of the framework to rebuild and strengthen the side after the departure of the mercurial five-eighth.
But disaster struck when Wallace, most recently with Auckland-based Mt Albert Lions, was lured to Ipswich in the Queensland Cup competition, forcing captain-coach Ryan O’Connor and newly-elected president Josh White to resort to Plan B.
“We can announce we’ve obtained the services of Claude Gordon, first grade halfback for Cessnock in the Newcastle competition,” White revealed.
“He injured his knee in the game before the grand final and missed the big match, which is how Maitland came to win the game.
“He’s another ex-Newcastle Knight and I saw plenty of him when I was coaching North Sydney and he was coming up with the Roosters and I can promise you . . . he can play, a bit.”
While Wallace isn’t totally lost to the Magpies, White is being realistic and while he’s offered some choice words privately, doesn’t want to get involved in a public slanging match.
“Let’s just say I have Mark Horo over there looking around to see what else is available,” he said.
“Claude is all class and will be here on November 3, so he’s got plenty of time to meet our boys and settle in as we get ready for our first match next year against Australian Army Thunder.
“He’s got terrific ability as an attacking player and still has his best football ahead of him.”
Also joining are three players from Northern Lakes club in the Newcastle league.
Another ex-Knight Matt Johnston will arrive with Brendan Sandelhay in search of a start in the back row, along with hooker Greg Gibbons.
Early indications are the new lads will fit in well with a side known to enjoy life.
“I think they’ll get on with the boys all right,” coach O’Connor remarked.
“We’re building up to the season already with a search for jobs for the players and recruitment of sponsors now going on.
“Our home-grown players really came to the fore at the end of the season and showed what they’re capable of and it was a privilege to play in the same team with them.
“I’ve got enormous faith in our blokes and feel there’s still a
great deal more improvement in them.
“When they are worked into the side along with the new recruits and everybody is lifting up to what I believe they can achieve, I’m expecting a fair few win bonuses will be paid out in 2011.”
White’s election this week puts him at the head of a younger committee, looking at new ways to take the club forward.
“We’ve got some clever decision-makers and I’ve got another four or five who are happy to help on game day without being on the committee,” he said.
“Fundraising is going to be important as we plan on winning plenty of games.
“The first sportsman’s dinner with John Elias and Graeme Murray will be held on November 5, with a second planned later in the year.
“For this one we’ve got boxing trainer Johnny Lewis lined up, along with former Kangaroo forward Peter Tunks.
“Other club functions are in the pipe works as we want to socialise as much as possible to keep the spirit in the club high.”