The departure of Ben Mitchell leaves a hole at Corowa which will be almost impossible to fill.
That's the view of coach Jarryd Hatton, following the announcement his team-mate and close friend has played his last game for the club after taking a job in Sydney.
Mitchell, who commuted from Canberra to play for Corowa, was a pivotal figure in helping the provincial newcomers take out the club championship in 2020/21.
There was no hiding Hatton's disappointment as he described Mitchell's impact on those around him.
"When he told me, I was pretty flat because it's a massive loss," Hatton said.
"What he brought to the club, on and off the field, was second to none. It doesn't matter who we bring in now, I don't think you can ever replace someone of Ben's calibre and character.
"You walk a foot taller when he's next to you, that's the kind of person he is.
"He's got a pretty good sense of humour and doesn't take it too seriously. He'll have a crack when he needs to but it's an honour to be on the ground and take the field with Benny.
"Sport comes second to work and he'd be mad not to take the job up in Sydney.
"I couldn't be happier for him, I'm stoked, but from a club perspective, to lose someone like that is massive, more off the ground than on it. He leaves a big hole in any side he's out of, let alone us, but off the ground you can't replace someone like Ben."
Mitchell, the former NSW Country off-spinner, claimed 20 wickets last season at an average of 22.85 and made 180 runs.
Despite his location, Mitchell was eager to join forces with Hatton at Corowa.
"He was in straight away, so that was a big relief for me, in my first year," Hatton said.
"It was huge for the club, a massive marquee signing and he had a massive impact not only on the club but within the league.
"Guys who have played at the Riverina level with him know how good a player he is. What he did for the Riverina team, a couple of match-winning performances, we saw a bit of that with Benny in clubland but you've probably got to factor in the travel; that probably had a bit of an effect on his performance.
"He bowled unbelievably well, he should have taken a lot more wickets but if you look at his economy (3.41), it probably goes hand-in-hand with wickets anyway.
"We've played a lot of rep cricket together and against each other and he was the MC at my wedding.
"Telling the boys, they were disappointed he won't be able to play and we won't have Benny Mitchell in our side but as a clubperson, to lose him, the boys loved being around him and loved the experience he fed back and the stories.
"He's just a vibrant dude and you play cricket to play with guys like Ben.
"I knew pretty early on that he wasn't going to be at Corowa this season.
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"We're doing alright without him and we both had a chat about that, about how we should go about replacing him.
"He said it's a really good opportunity to bleed time into the younger players at the club and that's the road we've chosen to go along."
Corowa is due to travel to Tallangatta on Saturday although Hatton and his fellow coaches will be keeping a close eye on the weather and any announcements from Cricket Albury-Wodonga.
"Hopefully, if there's any chance of it being called, it's called early enough because we've got boys travelling from Corowa through to Tallangatta," Hatton said.
"I've just said to our lads that we need to prepare to play T20 cricket.
"We've got Alex Lavis coming in for his first game with the gloves as Jeremy Carr is away.
"He's one of the most naturally gifted keepers getting around, for a young bloke, so that'll be exciting for him.
"We're just trying to bleed a lot of games into our younger players, like Ryan Beveridge stepping up last week and Kaelan Bradtke batting up the order.
"They really stood up against St Pat's last week so I'm excited to see how they go again and how we go against Tallangatta, who you can never take lightly.
"There are some great players with a lot of experience in that side, the likes of Matt Armstrong, Andrew Lade and Clint Ried, plus Shoaib Shaikh who's the best bat in the comp."
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