It didn't come as a surprise, but NSW Rugby League's decision to cancel all competitions for 2021 still came a blow for Group 11 president Bob Walsh.
Walsh and so many others in bush footy have been left with a somewhat empty feeling after it was confirmed no finals matches will be played this year.
While play had initially been paused in early August due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Group 11 board had pushed on and hoped to play a delayed finals series.
They were willing to go into November if that's what it took to finish a season which had captured the attention of fans from all around the region.
But NSWRL announced on Tuesday all remaining competitions across the state had been abandoned for the year.
"Anyone could have won it," Walsh said of the finals that now won't go ahead.
"It's one of the most even competitions we've had for a long time.
"But it was out of our hands."
As disappointing as the decision was, it's totally understandable given the position NSWRL was in and the details of the latest Public Health Orders.
The governing body, like other major sporting codes in the state, was informed community sport would not return in the foreseeable future.
"We were committed to getting the season finished but it never happened," Walsh said.
"The government wasn't going to give approval for any community sport so you can understand it."
NSWRL head of football Robert Lowrie said the ambiguity relating to vaccination targets and related requirements for community sport was another key factor considered before making the decision.
"I thank all stakeholders for their tireless efforts in trying to get community football back on the field but unfortunately it is no longer feasible," Lowrie said.
"While COVID has thrown up many challenges to our sport, there are still plenty of achievements to be proud of with a strong participation base of 108,000 players leading into 2022.
"I thank all our participants, officials, coaches and fans for their contributions this season. I urge them to stay safe, observe the COVID-19 safety guidelines and look forward to seeing them back in action in 2022."
Tuesday's announcement came after Dubbo District Junior Rugby League cancelled its season earlier this month.
The attention now turns to the fate of 2021 premierships.
Dubbo CYMS was named minor premiers in first grade after being ahead of the Wellington Cowboys on for-and-against when play stopped.
CYMS also finished on top in juniors and league tag while Macquarie was first in an extremely even reserve grade competition.
No decision on whether premierships would be awarded for this season was made at the time of publication but the board is set to meet to discuss the matter.
Walsh added the focus now quickly turns to an exciting new era for the game in the western region.
In 2022, the Peter McDonald Premiership will start and it will feature clubs from both Group 11 and Group 10.
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