WODONGA Heart has pulled its team from the Border’s senior soccer competition.
The club that climbed off the bottom of the ladder last year with its first win in five years says it was simply unable to find the players to compete at the elite level.
The heart-breaking decision was the latest blow for the club after visa complications robbed it of a new English coach and imports.
Heart had signed former Wangaratta and Notts County’s reserves midfielder Neil Smith as coach for the new season.
Smith had already nabbed two imports for the season.
But visa restrictions saw the deal fall through last month.
Club president Bill Sinclair said the uncertainty divided the playing ranks with at least four players shifting to another club.
He told Albury-Wodonga Football Association and players on Thursday night.
“It was simply too late in the off season to find someone who could take us forward,” he said.
“We had some great people in the club put their hand up to coach but, to be honest, by that time I think we had already lost the players.
“Thursday night was crunch time and we had five senior players at training.
“It is one of the toughest decisions the club has had to make but we don’t want to field a side that gets thrashed each week just for the sake of fielding a side.”
It is just the latest coaching setback for the club — last year then senior coach Carlo Villani had a heart attack and resigned mid-season.
His place was taken by captain Tyson Mason.
Mason had told the club it was an interim measure.
“Tyson did a great job last year but just wanted to go back and enjoy his football — he thinks his football suffered trying to do both,” Sinclair said.
“The upside is we will still a field a reserves and thirds team — the five senior players dropping back in grade to act as mentors to the younger players coming through the ranks.
“If they develop, it could be they form the nucleus of our senior side next year.”
Last year Benalla failed to field a senior team in the competition, resulting in each club having two byes in the home-and-away season.
AWFA president Craig McDonald said that would be likely to happen again if Wodonga Heart withdrew.
“If they do drop out then it would be a replication of what happened last year with the bye but I still hope we can find a resolution that sees them take the field,” he said.