HANWOOD has opted to step in line with Football Wagga regulations by agreeing not to play suspended star Andy Gamble for the rest of the Pascoe Cup season, despite national rules permitting them to do so.
Gamble's red card playing for National Premier League club Wagga City Wanderers created confusion on what competitions his subsequent five-match ban would relate to.
Clarification from Football Federation Australia was eventually sought, who advised if a dual-registered player is suspended for one club they are banned from that competition, but are free to play in another.
However Hanwood, who re-joined the Wagga competition earlier this year, have decided not to rock the boat after Football Wagga and its clubs agreed before this season that dual-registered players suspended for a red card offence in one competition can't play in another.
It effectively means Gamble could also miss the start of next season after serving just two matches of his suspension for Wanderers, who didn't qualify for finals, which effectively ensures an eight to ten game ban.
Hanwood lost 1-0 to Leeton on the weekend, and are locked in a three-way tie at the top with Lake Albert and Henwood Park heading into the last round.
However a far superior goal difference means they can lock up the minor premiership, and a week off in the first round of finals, with a win over Tumut on Sunday.
Football Wagga president Tony Dobbin said the situation is a difficult one for everyone involved, particularly Gamble.
"He can (play) if he wished to, but Hanwood being new weren't aware of our local rule and said they want to be part of our competition and its rules, so they won't play Andy Gamble," Dobbin said.
"We thank them because it resolves the issue, they're acting in the best interests of our competition."
Englishman Gamble is regarded as arguably the best player in Pascoe Cup, and his loss is a big hit to Hanwood's title hopes.
But coach Anthony Agresta has had a couple of weeks to make adjustments and is confident he has the cattle to fill the void.
"We've got guys like Danny (Johnson) and Matthew Napoli, guys who can fill the spot and we won't use it as an excuse of why we can go on and win it or not," he said.
"Obvously it's a factor for us, we're losing one of our better players and it makes it harder.
"But we've said the last couple of weeks we had a feeling this would probably be the case.
"Obviously having your better players out there helps, but I won't use that as an excuse because we lost on the weekend (to Leeton United)."