TO call it an unqualified success would be an unqualified mistruth.
However, it's fair to say the debut season of the On the Bench with Mick and Gary segment that appeared during the footy season on the Manning River Times' social media platforms, performed better than originally anticipated.
It ran for roughly half an hour on Fridays and after a couple of teething problems, it was decided that 4pm with the most successful kickoff time.
The segment concentrated on the upcoming weekend's round of Group Three Rugby League while also discussing any controversies simmering locally.
Group Three Hall of Famer Gary Bridge provided the expert analysis, Manning River Times sports writer Mick McDonald asked the questions.
Perhaps surprisingly, the segment was the brainchild of Times' photographer Scott Calvin. It's fair to assume there would be ameba on Saturn that would have more knowledge of Group Three than Scott. However, what he lacked in footy smarts, he more than made up for with innovative ideas on ways to make On the Bench rattle along.
Scott was on holidays, working at the eisteddfod, when the season kicked off, so we missed the first two rounds of the season. And the first couple of shows were a bit clunky, but we slowly found our way.
To mix things up a bit we managed to get a few special guests on, including Old Bar captain-coach Mick Henry, Old Bar halfback Jordan Worboys and Wingham's 2022 captain-coach Mitch Collins.
Work commitments unfortunately made it impossible for us to speak with Taree City's Trae Clark along with players or coaches from outside the immediate Manning area. But we were building towards a big end-of-season when the COVID-19 surge scuttled our plans.
League great Benny Elias, a former team-mate of Bridgey's from his Balmain days, was booked in for a guest appearance as he was coming to town for the Kristylea Bridge Challenge Cup day in August. However, the Greater Sydney lockdown saw that idea kicked into touch.
Wingham player-coach Mick Sullivan was keen, then he was bunkered down at his home on the Central Coast.
NSW women's State of Origin coach Kylie Hildler was another starter but the strict travel restrictions ruled her out. We were heading to Taree Rugby Park to speak with Manning Ratz coach Jake Maurirere on the eve of the Lower North Coast rugby grand final, but the lockdown ensured that didn't happen, either.
Mick Henry was going to return for the duration of the semi-finals series, but unfortunately they didn't go ahead.
Initially the segment was filmed at Bridgey's Sports Power, but social distancing and mask wearing requirements made it difficult, so we headed outside to venues including the Jack Neal Oval, Harry Bennett Park, Taree Recreation Ground and Struggle Street, Taree.
And we built a bit of a following, stats showing that each week averaged around 2000 views. Initially we would have been happy with a 100. Or 10.
So we should be back in 2022 and we want to get guests on board on a more regular basis. We will definitely honour our commitment to the Ratz by speaking to Jake Maurirere and may also see if we can get the Taree Wildcats Football Club involved.
We even have a plan to ensure the show goes on if Scott's away, although we haven't yet told rookie Times journalist Sarah Chalmers the vital role that she's going to play.
Sarah will also front the segment if old age or gout sends this veteran scribbler to the sin bin.
And if there's a business keen to get involved as a sponsor, well, we're sure our advertising consultant Leisa Smith will be able to do a deal.
Let's just hope that 2022 will see life - and by that we mean sport - back to something like normalcy.