THE year was 1990 and Old Bar Pirates trotted out to play in an ill-fated competition known as the Manning League to counter the then breakaway Mid North Coast Amateur League.
That was the club's first match and Mick Earley was a member of the side. Tomorrow he runs out for his 200th game with the club when he leads the Pirates out for the reserve grade minor semi-final against Wingham.
Earley's 45 now. A fullback/centre in his prime, he'll wear the nine jumper tomorrow.
Earley underwent a knee reconstruction after he was stretchered off in the 2000 grand final and he struggled to make it back onto the field after that. To all intents and purposes he retired a couple of years later.
"That was pretty disappointing - I was only 32 when I did the knee and I thought I had a few years left,'' he recalled.
However, the knee was giving him way too much grief and Earley reluctantly decided to hang up the boots. That was until the start of last year.
"You know what it's like. I was having a few beers on a Friday night and Wheels (reserve grade coach Craig Wheeler) told me that I could still be playing,'' he said.
"We were struggling a bit for numbers so I said yes.''
There was no chance of Earley returning to his old spot at fullback.
"I don't have pace any more,'' he laughed.
So it was into hooker. While the Pirates missed the semi-finals Earley's form was good enough to see him named Pirate of the Year, the club's most coveted award while he was also players' player. With the Pirates in a stronger position this year, Earley decided to have one more season.
"That's the first time I've won Pirate of the Year,'' he said.
"So I thought I should go around again.''
Apart from one year with Taree Old Bar, Earley's been with the Pirates through all the club's travels - from the Manning League, that barely lasted a month, to a start in the Hastings League. When Group Three and the then Saturday League kissed and made up the club gained a place in the Saturday League in 1994 and won the club's first competition. Then when the competitions combined the following year, he was there for the first game in Group Three.
"Probably winning the comp in 1996 was the highlight, when we beat Wingham,'' he said.
"But in 1998 when Mal Cochrane coached we made the grand final and Forster were supposed to flog us. We were still in front with seven minutes to go so that was a good effort.''
Individually, he says scoring four tries in a final against Gloucester was memorable. Ironically, that was one week before he injured his knee.
He rates Darrin Dark as the best player he's been associated with.
"Week-in-week-out, he was just so consistent,'' Earley said.
He's enjoyed the last couple of seasons.
"Yeah, the camaraderie's been good,'' he said.
"And the knee hasn't bothered me at all.''
He's now one of only a few Pirates to make the 200 game milestone. But the number he finishes on at the conclusion of this season will be his last.
"My body tells me that every Monday morning when I'm laying bricks,'' he said.
"After our last game this year, that's it for me.''