For any spectator Saturday's fixture between South West Rocks Marlins and Lower Macleay Magpies at SWR Sports Ground (Marlin Park) was a joy to behold.
As 2:30 neared, the ground's carpark was almost at capacity.
A healthy crowd had arrived with some special guests among them.
The day was the team reunion of the Melville High Commonwealth Bank Cup 1988/89 side.
One of the greatest country school boys teams of their time, they won the '88 University Shield and made the semi-finals of the Bank Cup in '88 and '89, beaten by Parramatta Marists Brothers and St Gregory's College Campbelltown. Both schools went on to win the competition.
Hat Head raised former Kangaroo Wayne Bartrim was a part of the side and in attendance on Saturday.
Joining him was Marlins patron and former Western Suburbs legend John 'Snoozer' Elford who rarely misses a Marlins match with both sides playing for the John Elford Shield.
As the Melville legends sipped away on their first beverage and players stepped onto the hallowed turf, news began to spread - a statewide lockdown was upon us.
While disappointing, what some of the Macleay Valley's finest rugby league players offered heightened the spirits of everyone in attendance.
The Marlins and Magpies put on a contest for the ages.
Typical of a derby, the match was physical.
Faces were rubbed in the dirt but players stood up with a smile on their face and hi-fived each other at times - it's all apart of the game.
An entry fee was without a doubt worth it as the 38-28 scoreline to Marlins ensured everyone was entertained.
Every member of the crowd commented on how good of a fixture it was and as the group photo suggests there was plenty of love at full-time.
"It's always a great game against Maggies, it's always physical especially when players from both sides are either first cousins, second cousins or even brothers," Marlins coach Alfie Drew said post-game.
"There's a lot of love and a lot of physicality in the game.
"It was well played and in great spirits from both teams."
Social media comments lit up as the magic of the day's proceedings sunk in.
"Forget the NRL this was hard (and) fair dinkum," Max Miller wrote.
"Rugby league played as it should be."
The day represented how country rugby league should be played - full of camaraderie, respect and skillful football.
To make matters even better, almost every Marlins supporter was dressed in the club's specially designed indigenous jersey from their round 15 fixture.
The jersey was designed to do exactly what occurred on Saturday and it was fitting to see spectators still wearing it almost a month on.
"I wanted to capture something that was inclusive to the whole club," Drew described back in July.
"The whole thing about Marlins is coming together as one and being a family club."
Sport can have a magic effort and the weekend fixture gave people a deserved break from the worries of COVID to watch two class sides battle for victory.
Saturday afternoon at SWR was a credit to the Marlins, Magpies, their supporters and importantly the community as the Macleay Valley proved it's truly one of rugby league's heartlands.
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