WODONGA Raiders recruit Jye Shields has departed Birallee Park without playing a match.
He recently informed Raiders' officials that he was relocating to Western Australia for an employment opportunity.
Shields, 25, was on the recruiting radar of several O&M clubs including defending premiers Lavington and Albury after he expressed his desire to play at the higher level.
Raiders' coach Jarrod Hodgkin conceded the news was a blow despite Shields being unproven in the O&M.
"It is a blow, especially being this close to the new season," Hodgkin said.
"Jye has been thinking about the move for a while now and it wasn't totally unexpected and we have had time to get our head around it."
IN OTHER NEWS
Hodgkin hopes the departure of Shields could have a silver lining with the Raiders' still having enough points to land a high-profile recruit.
Former North Albury coach Isaac Muller and Hoppers recruit Jacob Smith have been the club's two biggest signings since COVID-19 ruined the season.
The Raiders were also firmly in the mix to sign former Port Adelaide and Western Bulldogs big man Jackson Trengrove before he recently joined Barooga.
"The reality with Jye is that he is a four point player and we have got the opportunity to replace him," he said.
"Time will tell how we go I guess."
Shields arrived at Culcairn from Kiewa Sandy Creek at the end of 2015 and spent four seasons with the Lions.
During that time he was widely regarded as the premier player in the Hume league.
The midfield maestro took his game to another level last season and finished runner-up in the Azzi medal for a third year in-a-row.
He won the Lions' best and fairest in 2017 and 2019.
Hodgkin said he had little doubt that Shields had all the attributes to have an impact in the O&M.
"There is no doubt he was in our best 21," he said.
"Having been at the club for 12 months and watching him train and play a few practice matches, I had seen enough of Jye to suggest that he was going to be more than handy in the O&M.
"I guess you never know how good a player someone is until they prove themselves.
"But he has definitely got the talent to be a good player, that's for sure."
Hodgkin said Shields was unlikely to play in Western Australia with his employment in a remote area.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.