Devastated, heartbroken and gutted don't even begin to describe how Guyra's under 19's team felt upon hearing the news their competition had been cancelled for the season.
Group 19's pre-season carnivals were due to start this Saturday and, with the Guyra Super Spuds the only club to have enough players to field an under 19s team, the organisation was forced to cancel the competition.
Speaking to The Armidale Express this week, would-be skipper of the Guyra side, Jack Armatage, didn't hide his pain.
"It is gut-wrenching really," he said.
"They've just said 'there's no comp' which just hurts.
"You pay your money, you put your blood, sweat and tears into it so you can play footy and be with your mates on the weekend.
"It is more than just a sport, it is a social thing, you get to see your mates.
"I grew up with most of those boys in Guyra and I consider most of them as family and I wouldn't get to see them all that often but with training and playing, I would get to see them three days a week."
Last year, the Spuds pulled together numbers for the under 18s competition and then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Their dream of the club finally fielding an under 18s team for the first time in more than a decade was shattered.
Then in 2021, they were given hope.
Group 19 opted to add a year to the age group to keep players in the game and it meant the 2020 Spuds could stay together.
"All the boys put in training effort last year and did the same thing this year," Armatage said.
"We had great numbers, everyone was turning up to training, we would have a full team at training twice a week.
"All the boys were really keen and we showed promise. It is just gut-wrenching on all of us that no one can have a run.
"A lot of those boys won't get get to play now because a lot of them aren't old enough to play in the A-grade.
"There's a lot of people missing out."
As for why other towns can't come up with the numbers, Armatage couldn't work it out.
"I don't understand how there can be a town like Armidale with like 30,000 people and they can't get 15 young fellas to play footy," he said.
"When I was growing up playing footy, Glen [Innes] had enough players in the one team to field two teams, Inverell had two or three teams, Moree always had Boars and the 'Rangs.
"Bingara and Uralla all had teams, young fellas the same age as me.
"I don't know where they have gone now."
Armatage fears for the future of the sport, not just in the country, but the flow-on effect it could have across in higher levels.
And he's made a plea to the game's administrators in Sydney and beyond to take action.
"Where the roots of the NRL are, like where do they get their talent from if people don't keep playing?" he said.
"Someone has to pull their finger out somewhere and doing something about it.
"I don't know if it is just because they don't care or if it is not their concern.
"Rugby league in the country has been dying for a while now and it has got to the point where we can't even get a bloody comp."
Armatage also bemoaned the effect it will have on Guyra, given the fact the area has just pulled through a major drought, bushfires and then COVID.
The cancellation of the under 19s is not the only blow for the senior competition this year.
Six clubs have folded.
The Tenterfield Tigers have also departed Group 19 to play in the newly-reformed Border Rivers competition.
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