AUSTRALIAN Army Thunder learned first hand on Saturday why Bellingen Park is named 'the graveyard' by visiting teams.
Unbeaten since being formed in 2003, the Thunder crashed to their first-ever defeat, going down 24-16 to Bellinger Valley-Dorrigo in the inaugural Matthew Locke Memorial Shield Match.
Lined up beside the home side for the national anthem, the visitors - liberally sprinkled with Premier League and Queensland Cup players - looked like they may be too big, fit, fast and overpowering for the Magpies.
It started out that way with Thunder quickly running in the opening try but as soon as Bello equalised, their line-up of tricksters began laying on the magical ball play that will have local fans packing grounds this season.
Winning captain-coach Josh White was beaming after the club picked up its first silverware for the year.
“Don't believe the papers when they say those Army blokes aren't fit,” he said.
“They were really rock hard and worried us when they came back in the second half but my blokes won with defence.
“I told them the attack would come naturally and to concentrate on tackling Army out of the game and the tactics worked.”
SCORES: BELLINGER VALLEY-DORRIGO MAGPIES 24 (Ray Morris 2, Brad Hart, Matt Bush tries; Brendan Myers 4 goals) def AUSTRALIAN ARMY THUNDER 16 (Private Mike Hamer 2, Corporal Shane Harden-Powell tries; Corporal Adam Wallace 2 goals).
Under 18s: Macksville def Bellingen 38-0.
Men of the Match: Alex Hull (Magpies), Corporal Shane Harden-Powell (Thunder).