After the build-up, the effort, and then the achievement, there came the let-down.
Under co-coaches Brad Aiken and Heath Russell, The Rock-Yerong Creek were on a mission to return the club to finals for the first time since 2017.
The Magpies didn't just scrape in. They sewed up third spot and - until a month ago - a double chance in finals. Now, there's next to no chance of playing in one.
"That's disappointing, purely for the boys and even more for the helpers at the footy club," Aiken said.
"That's where they get their pleasure, I suppose. For them to not have that opportunity, after we've come so far this year, it is disappointing."
The Magpies resurgence had been built around the arrival of key Canberra recruits, who were unlikely to play a part in finals once the capital went into lockdown in early August.
Aiken said the 'Pies were "probably going to get hit hardest' by COVID without the Canberra trio, but they had remained excited about hopefully proving something in a showdown against East Wagga-Kooringal.
"It would've been a really good test for our local blokes, to see how far they've actually come," Aiken said.
"Funnily enough, we've had some blokes training harder than they ever have. I don't know whether this was the shot in the arm - that they've really enjoyed this year and they've got the hunger now to try to win a flag or be a part of something like that - but they're the fittest they've been and are not going to be able to utilise it."
Like Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes coach Jeremy Rowe, Aiken was bemused by the exclusion of community sport from the new-found freedoms, until there's a high vaccination rate.
"The biggest picture is people's health and safety but it confuses me that they let us out of the lockdown early and you're allowed to go the races or go to a pub and go and have meals, but you can't play community sport, which is played outside," he said.
AFL NSW-ACT will continue to explore every option when the detail of the public health order is released.
"I don't know if there's still faint hope that they might still try to play a finals series. I don't know whether clubs would dig in and want to push it back to the end of October (like Group Nine)," Aiken said.
He said the lure of a finals series was always worth chasing but noted that the longer the break went on, the harder it would become, particularly with the onus on players keeping themselves fit, without match fitness.
"Then you've to worry about what sort of footy is going to be played. It'd be like watching the opening round of the season, maybe even worse - you haven't got that training base or been playing trial games. But it's disappointing, all the same."
However, Aiken said it wasn't a season in vain given the 'Pies can take pride in their march up the ladder.
"We're pretty proud of what we've achieved. It's not the ultimate in what you want to achieve but as a club moving forward and what we were trying to do, we're rapt."
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