A carnival-like atmosphere for the men’s 2nd division semi-final at Bellingen on Saturday went into overdrive when the heavyweight home side scored a late equaliser against Nambucca Strikers to send the match into extra time.
Nambucca had stunned but never silenced the black and white army on the sidelines when they led 2-1 at halftime.
“It was just a great football crowd – they were bagging our own team, bagging the opposition and bagging the ref, but all done with good humour. And there was plenty of singing too,” Bellingen club president Mick Klipin said.
With 10 minutes of regular time to go, the Bello Bats scored to level – and ended up taking the result 4-2, to set up a grand final against Woolgoolga.
“Woopi finished second (in the regular season) so it’s basically one versus two,” Mick said.
The passionate Bellingen club are also chuffed to have their 14s and 15s girls through to grand finals in a season which overall, Mick said had been outstanding for the code.
“That we’ve actually had football (given COVID) has been fabulous and that’s thanks to the work of NCF, FFA and Northern NSW,” he said.
“As a teacher I know of (rugby) league players who haven’t had anything this year and they’re gutted.”
Mick said player numbers at Bellingen had dipped a little on the back of the coronavirus disruption, but that was to be expected, and it’s an experience shared by many.
“The stop-start nature of the season made it a bit tricky at the beginning, but once we got going the kids loved it and the coaches were right into it,” he said.
“We have a new look committee and a lot of energy.
“Our junior numbers have been very solid in the 5 to 7s, and the 9s, 10s and 11s – and I always look there to see how the club is shaping going forward.
“This year we took the plunge and got an Under 12s girls team together – and that’s the first one we’ve had in years, and they made it through to the semis.
“Our girls football is definitely on the rise and our men’s teams are looking strong, with a number already saying they’re looking forward to going again next year.
“Overall, it’s been a fabulous season.”
Photo: Bellingen’s Rowan Juodvalkis and Nambucca’s Kai Allan at full noise in Saturday’s semi-final