AMONG the cheers, beers and tears at Cooks Square Park last night, no one was happier or more relieved than Magpies stalwart Justin Broadley.
Needing a point against Toronto-Awaba to secure promotion to the top flight of Northern NSW Football for the first time since 2002, Maitland went on an 8-0 romp.
Roger Dowdell scored a hat-trick, Luke Lawless grabbed a double, Harry Maguire chipped the keeper, captain Blake Thompson scored from the spot and goalkeeper Benn Kelly blasted a penalty into the roof of the net before sliding in ecstasy towards the Magpies faithful.
The party had started.
And in the thick of it was Broadley, who has shown loyalty to Maitland through their time in first division.
The 28-year-old returned to Maitland from Weston in time for their relegation after the 2002 season and has knocked back countless state league offers to stay with the Magpies through 12 seasons.
The midfielder was happy he had stayed the course last night as he celebrated with teammates, including younger brothers Chris and Ryan.
‘‘It’s just relief, I guess,’’ Justin said. ‘‘Being here from start to finish after sticking it out. I think we finished second in six years or something.
‘‘It could have been so easy for me just to turn around and leave, but you see the kind of work the committee puts in, and if I don’t hang around.
‘‘Someone’s got to start it, and it started with the old boys that I came through with.’’
In those early days, Broadley played two full games, in 19s and firsts, each weekend ‘‘just so we had the numbers’’.
Maitland rebuilt steadily to be consistently one of the top teams in first division, without finishing No.1.
Broadley believes a new focus this year under first-year coach Graham Law has made the difference.
‘‘We’ve always had the players. It’s just been an attitude thing. Everyone sees the Magpies as the good-time Magpies, but this year has been different. I know myself, I have made a lot of sacrifices this year, off the drink, doing yoga and training hard.
‘‘I just wanted to give it one more year, because if we didn’t get promoted this year, I wasn’t coming back.’’
The strong local connection at the club had made the achievement more special.
‘‘A lot of the teams who have done it have spent a lot of cash, but eight of the 11 here are Maitland juniors,’’ he said. ‘‘It was hard for us. A lot of the good Maitland boys are playing elsewhere, so it’s a credit to the guys who could have gone elsewhere and stayed.
‘‘I’m only getting $50 a win and a lot of guys could have gone and chased the dollar and chase personal dreams, so to put that all aside, it’s great.’’
Broadley, who has lived in Newcastle for the past six years, joked that ‘‘I’ll probably be surplus’’ to requirements next season at Maitland and “might get a gig in all-age”.
Maitland are set to announce tomorrow that former Lake Macquarie coach Chris Turner will guide them next season.
Law is expected to be named the new Adamstown coach this week, while Robert Virgili is set to return to the Broadmeadow Magic post.
On Saturday, Valentine beat Belmont-Swansea 3-0 to force Maitland into earning one more point for promotion.
Maitland play Thornton, who lost 5-1 to Cessnock, in the semi-finals this week. Valentine play Bel-Swans.
The NPL rested on the weekend, and the Herald Women’s Premier League was washed out.