North Wagga coach Cayden Winter stopped watching his diet on Thursday and headed for a deep fried lunch instead.
On what was otherwise a day of good news for the Riverina, the letdown for those involved in sport came almost 12 minutes into the official NSW government news conference.
"For those areas that are coming out of lockdown, you are not coming back to a pre-lockdown environment... community sport won't recommence," NSW deputy premier John Barilaro declared.
Those last four words sounded like air gushing out of a balloon of hope that somehow, sometime, the Farrer League finals would go ahead and the four teams still standing would get a shot at a premiership.
"It's pretty disappointing to be honest but obviously there's not much we can do about it," Winter said.
"Blokes have bashed their bodies for 18 weeks to try and get the ultimate success, and even to play in finals, and to not be able to do it is pretty disappointing.
"But on the flip side, it's bigger than community sport and it's bigger than AFL Riverina... everyone in competitions in NSW and Victoria are in the same boat."
Winter has just completed his second year as coach, but his team has only played 16 home and away games and no finals.
He said having this year's culmination to the season taken off the table - despite AFL Riverina revisiting finals options a few times in recent weeks in the hope of getting two weeks in - is particularly hard after the Farrer League season in 2020 had to be abandoned.
"Last year too, obviously we couldn't play and there was no premiership awarded, and it's going to be the same this year," Winter said.
"When you start your footy career when you're 18 or whatever and start playing first grade, you think it will go forever but it goes really quick... and to have two years rubbed out, you'll look back and wonder what could've happened in those years."
North Wagga haven't played since August 7. They had the bye in the final round on August 14 - the same day the statewide lockdown was announced (and later extended by a week, and then another fortnight).
Winter said the long layoff wasn't worrying his playing group, who were itching for a shot at finals.
"The boys were really ripping in and doing the best they could. Obviously it wasn't as much as normal training Tuesdays and Thursdays but I think they were getting themselves in the best nick they could," he said.
"Everyone was chomping at the bit. Everyone that I spoke to at the club, from 17s through second grade and first grade, were all really keen to have a crack. So that was a good sign."
Saints finished fourth after losing their last game at The Rock. But in an adjusted finals series they were going to be just one win away from appearing in a grand final, going straight into a semi-final against Marrar.
"Everyone was really keen to be able to try and do that, but obviously it wasn't to be," Winter said.
"But as I said, there's not much we can do about it. All the boys are still super keen on their footy and will be back bigger and better than ever next year, if we can."
North Wagga will hold an unlikely place in history heading into 2022, remaining reigning premiers for a third straight year, without having had the chance to win a flag since 2019.
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