Maitland Magpies have parted ways with former Newcastle Jet Nick Cowburn by mutual agreement on the eve of their Northern NSW NPL catch-up match with Olympic at Darling Street Oval on Wednesday night.
Cowburn, 25, came to the Magpies midway through last year after failing to secure a new deal with the Jets, where he played 69 A-League matches.
The midfield helped Maitland secure their first top-division premiership and grand final appearance last season but he came off the bench in the scoreless draw with Broadmeadow Magic at Cooks Square Park on Saturday in round six.
Maitland coach Michael Bolch said the club and Cowburn agreed to split on Tuesday.
Bolch said Cowburn's work commitments since the COVID-19 delay to the season start meant he had been unable to train with the club.
He said Cowburn asked for a release and told the Magpies he may play in the second division, where his junior club Toronto Awaba compete, but he would not play against Maitland this season out of respect to the club.
There is also a gentleman's agreement between NPL clubs for this season not to take players from each other's top squads because of the financial fallout from COVID-19.
Due to the delayed start to the shortened season, the deadline for player registrations is the end of this month, rather than the traditional date of June 30.
The Herald tried to contact Cowburn for comment.
Maitland, in third spot on goals with 10 points alongside Lambton Jaffas and Weston, face Olympic (eight points) in a round-five catch-up match from 8.15pm on Wednesday.
Bolch said everyone else was on board for the match, which was originally postponed when Olympic lost players to precautionary COVID-19 isolation.
"Both the Swan boys [Mat and Andrew] played on the weekend and pulled up well, Jimmy Thompson is back from suspension and we will probably look to bring him straight into the starting line-up, just to freshen things up from Saturday," Bolch said.
"[Sean] Pratt and [Matt] Comerford are getting better each week. They are playing 60-65 minutes each game because we don't want to overdo it too early with them coming back from injury.
"I couldn't be happier with where they are at. And young Joey O'Connor has been doing well off the bench, giving us a lot of energy and he'll get a start tomorrow night or Sunday."
Olympic interim coach Alex Tagaroulias said Scotsman Anthony Marenghi was unlikely to play because of a back problem which forced him from the field in the 3-1 loss to Azzurri on Sunday.
Tagaroulias said Blake Green and Kent Harrison were nearing a return from injury, while Tom Curran may be a straight swap for Marenghi in the starting side.