NORTH Albury is bitterly disappointed after losing another two of its best players to rival club Wodonga Raiders.
The Hoppers face the daunting task of replacing Isaac Muller and Jacob Smith after it was confirmed they would be playing under Jarrod Hodgkin at Birallee Park next season.
Smith's departure has left a sour taste in North Albury's mouth after the former VFL player departed the club without playing a match.
Muller and Smith have joined a growing list of star players to depart Bunton Park for Wodonga Raiders.
High-profile Hoppers Adam Prior, Matt Murray, Matt McDonald and Shane Munro have all had stints at Birallee Park in recent seasons.
Corey Lambert left North Albury to coach Wodonga Raiders while Dave Nichol and Josh Nagle also switched camps as coaching support.
Club president Tony Burns declined to comment when contacted by The Border Mail on Friday.
North Albury is reluctant to speak out about the departures.
However it finds the situation hypocritical after the Raiders were outspoken about former coach Daryn Cresswell taking several of their players to W.J. Findlay Oval.
In a positive sign the Hoppers have re-signed the majority of their list.
They are also in negotiations with several recruits that will help fill the gaping hole left by the departures.
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Meanwhile, Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes coach Jeremy Rowe has been forced to leave Smith out of Saturday's clash against Turvey Park.
The Goannas have ushered in a stack of high quality recruits for round three of the AFL Riverina Championship including Corowa-Rutherglen's Trent Castles.
After they bounced back from a round one loss with a win over Osborne last weekend, Rowe wants to reward the players who got the job done.
Smith joined MCUE on permit after the O&M season was cancelled.
"For us to be in a position where we've left a guy out with VFL experience this week is quite bizarre, and it certainly doesn't feel right," Rowe said.
"It's just a reflection of how unique this season is.
"We can't wait to get Jacob into our first grade squad, but this week we've gone with blokes that deserve another opportunity, and we're not prepared to compromise our culture."