Brawl leaves bush footy admin under pressure
ON A day when all sporting fans should be excited by the State Of Origin decider, the shadow of Sunday's meeting between Coffs Harbour and Macleay Valley hangs like a pall over bush footy.
Two sin-binnings, a send off and numerous spiteful incidents finally ended with an ugly confrontation between players that spilled over the sidelines midway through the second stanza.
Fed up with what he had seen, referee Ray Pettit consulted with touch judges David Dunn and Garth Burley and abandoned the match with 19 minutes still remaining.
At a time when fledgling players should be inspired by the likes of former Group 2 sensation Greg Inglis - even if he is a faux Queenslander - more parents have said "never again" following this latest local league atrocity.
The wife of one administrator this week said it was no longer safe to take the kids to the game and with police now looking into the matter, she may be right.
"There were little under-10 kids there to provide entertainment and they had to watch all this," she said.
"What impression does it make on them?"
The game has seen far worse brawls than this weekend debacle.
What made this one different was the pervasive undercurrent of seething hostility that had patrons worried long before the final eruption.
It has now emerged that Comets president Steve Gooley made three calls to police from early in the day, alerting them to rising tension and that the afternoon could end in a mess.
He was right.
Something is structurally wrong, as these Group 2 "incidents" seem to happen year after year after year.
The last report of the kind in Mid North Coast Rugby was in 1991 and they say AFL North Coast had a couple of problems in 1999.
An off-field incident in North Coast Football last year saw one lengthy sentence handed out but by and large, league's winter ball code rivals cleaned up their acts years ago and threw troublemakers out the gate.
Yet another violence-created crisis means few believe Group 2's under pressure administration can ever sort this out.
They will be confronted and frustrated by a hard core group who believe paying $7 at the gate entitles them to howl abuse, behave like hooligans and disrupt the enjoyment of the majority of true league believers.
There are widespread calls for the administration to act courageously by assigning the film of the event to an independent panel which will identify as many alleged culprits as possible, to be handed over for fair and firm judgement.
One thing for certain is this event is already a seismic moment in Group 2 history and the local game will never be the same again.