HEARTBREAK: Lower Clarence calls it quits in NRRRL
RUGBY LEAGUE: It is a disappointing day for rugby league in the Clarence Valley after the Lower Clarence Magpies made the tough call to not run a senior side in the NRRRL this season.
It has been a tumultuous pre-season for the Magpies, which culminated in their final training session on Thursday night.
The crisis button had been pushed and the club had put out the call for at least 20 players to show up, but when only 13 senior players trained at Yamba Sporting Complex it was apparent to the committee that the time had come to make the heartbreaking call.
Board of management member and long term Magpie Bruce Howard stood among his charges on the field and gave an emotional talk about the crisis the club faced.
He thanked the senior side for their efforts in training but explained to them there was nothing the club could do about the situation.
Lower Clarence grand finalist and 13-season veteran D.J. Eamens stood amongst his team mates to thank the committee and his peers.
"It is a very tough time to know we could have gotten a few more players from around the community but they had prior commitments," Eamens said.
"I was on the wing in the grand final in 2009 when we won it at home, that was one of the best moments of my career.
"I have been there at the best and now I am here at the worst, but we can only go up from here."
Eamens believes along with the club committee that 2016 can now be utilised as a positive rebuilding year to bring the club back in good shape for next year.
"We can use this year to get a lot of positives," he said. "We can rally together to get more troops and work on a few things that let us down this time around to be better for next year.
"The sense of community, and friends and mateship - we want to keep that strong so we can have a foundation to build on next year.
"I would rather stay with Lower, that is where my heart is."
Club president Darrin Heron was adamant that the club is not folding and will put all its support behind ensuring the Under-18s stay together as a Magpies team.
Captain-coach Ryan McGoldrick said he felt for the players who had continued to show loyalty to the club by turning up week-in and week-out of pre-season.
"It is the 13 or so blokes who keep coming back that I feel for," he said.
"These guys have done everything they could to get on the park and it is just unfortunate it has come to this."
Eamens believed a lack of loyalty was a contributing factor to the club's senior football demise.
"A lot of people do play on the field with a lot of pride and courage but when it comes to loyalty the cheque books get in the way," Eamens said.
"To me it is about playing for your family, playing for yourself and playing for the colours on your back. It is about playing for your mates beside you.
"Lower are my family."