Tumut rugby league fans’ worst fears have been confirmed with the announcement that Zac Masters is taking up an opportunity to play rugby league in Queensland.
The barnstorming bookend will say goodbye to the Tumut Blues after signing a one-year deal with Easts Tigers, who compete in the Super Intrust Cup competition and act as a feeder club to the Melbourne Storm.
Masters, who only made the decision earlier this week, had mixed feelings after deciding to cut ties with Tumut.
“Mate, it was a very hard decision to make; I think everyone knows that I love this place and love playing for the Blues,” he said.
“It probably makes it a little easier after winning the premiership with a bunch of my best mates; not much can top that and it’s something I will hold with me forever.”
The 22-year-old, who has previously struggled with homesickness when taking up opportunities outside of Tumut, was treating this move as his last chance to play at the highest level.
“I’m leaving because of the opportunity more than anything, I guess for a long while I believed the (NRL) dream may have been over in a way,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky enough to come home for a couple of years, win a comp with my best mates and still have the opportunity to go and have another crack at footy.”
“I have to have a go while I still can, otherwise I’d wonder what if?”
Masters did admit the move would be very hard and his connections to Tumut almost kept him with the Blues.
“The hardest thing will probably be moving away from Tumut and my mates to be honest, I love the place,” he said.
Despite his impending move, Masters did reminisce on the season just gone and a drought-breaking grand final win with Tumut.
“My fondest memory is definitely winning the premiership, It was a dream come true for me,” he said.
“I watched all the great Tumut Blues sides do it when I was a kid, and never knew if I’d get my chance, and to do it with such a great bunch of locals was amazing; something I’ll cherish forever.”
Despite Masters deciding not to sign on for 2020, Blues vice-president Tom Arragon could only find praise for one of Tumut’s finest rugby league products.
“The club just wishes him all the best, he has done the club great service over the years,” he said.
“He has been a great ambassador and role model for the club.”
Arragon believes Masters has been one of Tumut’s best since progressing to first grade.
“It’s pretty hard to compare eras but since he came out of juniors, he has been one of our best players over the last five years,” he said.
“Any club would be happy to have him.”
The 2018 Weissel medalist and reigning John Hobby Foundation award winner will be huge loss to Tumut and their 2020 premiership defence.
Masters joins a growing list of 2019 Tumut Blues premiership players that won’t be around in 2020 after the recent announcements that Tom and Ben Warner, Brayden Draber, Austin McDougall, Jason Webb and Ben Roddy have all left the club.
At this stage, Tumut is yet to announce a coach for next season, or any new signings to fill the void of outgoing players.