North Wagga have lost key defender Lachlan Robertson for the remainder of the season after being cleared back to Northern Riverina club Hillston.
Robertson, a 2019 premiership player at the Saints, returned to the club this season but has left for Hillston again with the club's best wishes.
North Wagga coach Cayden Winter said the travel involved for Robertson proved too difficult.
"Yeah he's gone back out there (to Hillston)," Winter confirmed this week.
"With his work and stuff, it's easier for him out that way, less travel.
"It was best for him to be back out that way so it's fair enough. He leaves with our best wishes."
Robertson played five games for North Wagga this year, filling in an important role as a key position player in defence.
Winter conceded he will be missed.
"The first four weeks, he was probably our best player," he said.
However the Saints hope they have a ready-made replacement in Ky Hanlon. He has spent time in defence during the first part of the season and showed he looks more than capable cover at centre-half-back.
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"We've got Ky Hanlon, who is probably a better back than he is forward. We can put him back there and just replace one," Winter explained.
"Ky's been going well when he goes back there so we'll back him in.
"It's probably an easier transition than if it was a key forward and Nath (Dennis) went down, or someone like that, it would be a hard role to fill but we've got a soldier there ready to go in Kyza."
After a shaky start to the season, North Wagga turn the halfway mark in sixth spot, just two points outside the top five.
They begin the second half of the year with an important showdown with the fifth-placed Northern Jets, who have had the Saints' measure in their past three meetings, including a two-point win in round one.
"We look at back at that one in the first round as one that probably hurts us a fair bit, we definitely should have won the game, we were the better side on the day, we just couldn't capitalise on our opportunities," Winter said.
"They've been a bit of a bogey side, the last couple of years, the Jets, so all the boys are champing at the bit to try and get out there and redeem ourselves from the start of this year and last year as well."
Providing the week runs smoothly, North Wagga expect to be at full-strength for the Jets at McPherson Oval on Saturday.
While Winter would prefer some of the close losses had gone the other way, he's remaining calm that the Saints will start to string some consistency over the second half of the year.
"I stress and stress as you could imagine. We just had to string some games together and everything will take care of itself if we play some consistent footy," he said.
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