ORGANISED touch football was in its infancy in Taree in 1977 when the first State Cup was played in Port Macquarie.
Previously touch was a game played at football training or at school, although it was gaining traction in the city, with a competition starting in the South Sydney area as early as 1968.
With Kevin Hardy at the helm, the first Taree Touch Football season began in the summer of 1976/77.
A Taree team, with the unflattering name of Village Idiots, entered the first State Cup at Port the following year. Ron 'Skip' Bell was a member of the side and he recalls the first game was a bit of a culture shock.
"We played Manly - we were in football shorts and t-shirts, no one wore shoes,'' he said.
"Manly turned up with Coca Cola bags and all wearing track suits. They were flown to Port for the weekend.''
John Gibbs, then a star first grade rugby league halfback with Manly, was in the side as was former Australian representative winger Ken Irvine.
"They gave us a bit of a touch-up, but we didn't lose a game after that until the repercharge final the next day,'' Skip said.
Preliminary games were played at Stuart Park, with the finals as Westport Park, then the main rugby league ground in Port.
Skip said Glen Barlin, who was among the best touch footballers in Taree at the time, organised the Idiots. They were largely a group of footballing and surfing mates.
Future league immortal Graeme 'Chang' Langlands was the sponsor. He was mine host at the Manning Hotel at Chatham at the time. He was also playing touch in Taree.
There was no pre-cup coaching sessions and not much of a game plan, other than Barlin or the then teenage Tony Hinton generally taking the first pass.
"We didn't give a rat's arse,'' Skip said.
However, they had earlier won the Palm Court Knockout at Port contested in the main by North Coast teams and that led to playing in the State Cup. That win also attracted attention from the city press because of Langlands' involvement.
"The headline in the Sunday Telegraph was 'Chang the brains behind Village Idiots,'' Skip laughed.
"But we didn't think playing in the State Cup was a real big deal until we played Manly. They were doing plays and structures and we'd only just come on board playing touch.
"We did pretty well after the first game before we played Port Hacking in the final. They beat us 4-1.''
The Idiots went to the next State Cup in Queensland the following year, however, Skip said their enthusiasm started to wane as the game became more professional and streamlined.
"They told us we had to wear shoes and that sort of thing, we weren't too interested,'' he said.
The State Cup pioneers from 1977 were Skip Bell, Tony Hinton, Glen Barlin, Alywn 'Stumpy' Cann, Gary Warwick, Mark 'Speed' Ryan, Brett Connolly, Steve Range, Andrew 'Bucky' Holden and Lee Barlin.