The towering gates at Frankston Park had been slammed shut on the suburb's VFL side.
Midfielder Alex Smout had been left without a club to play for before his phone started ringing in August of 2016. It was his former teammate, Canberra Demons-bound Josh Bennett.
For months Smout gave it no thought, until Bennett called again in February. He said "I'll get the GM to call you" and hung up.
"I was like 'righto, whatever', thinking the whole time 'nup, no chance I'm going there, no chance'," Smout said.
Sure enough, Shaun Young called and offered Smout the chance to come up for a training session.
"It just so happened we were playing an intra-club match that night, and I went okay. He gave me a contract at the end of the night and I was like 'oh crap'," Smout said.
"I did it and I'm still here three years later."
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Now he is preparing for a must-win NEAFL clash against the Redland Bombers at Manuka Oval on Saturday.
And Smout is representing a city he never thought football would lead him to.
"It was the year the [Frankston Dolphins] club folded. I played for the probably the first six games or so, and all of my mates were playing local footy together," Smout said of his 2016 campaign.
"I just wasn't really enjoying it, so I just went back and played local footy and ended up playing in a grand final that year. We ended up losing but I got that love of footy back again.
"I wanted to go back and play state league, at the time I was thinking about playing VFL at another club, but I ended up coming to Canberra.
"It's been a pretty good decision and I've enjoyed my time at Canberra."
All the while he has been playing under Kade Klemke, who has signed a one-year contract extension with the Demons which will keep him at the NEAFL club until the end of the 2020 season.
The Canberra player-coach is determined to turn the Demons into a destination club for AFL draft hopefuls - and of those there are plenty.
Jarrod Osborne has become Canberra's fourth NEAFL Rising Star nominee this season after his showing against Sydney University last week.
He joins Angus Baker, Connor Owen-Auburn and Rhys Pollock as Canberra's nominees for the award won by Mitch Maguire last season.
So impressive was Maguire that he finished fifth in the league's most valuable player voting. Not far behind was Smout.
But a below-par finish to the season effectively cost him a place in the NEAFL's team of the year and soured his year.
Now he is desperate to make amends, and Smout knows the best way to do so is to help Canberra deep into the finals in search of a maiden premiership.
"We were pretty bitterly disappointed losing the prelim last year. A lot of us thought 'we'll get back there next year'," Smout said.
"It's not until you start playing again that you realise how hard it is. I remember last year watching the grand final and just being so cut that we weren't out there.
"Now, when it's do-or-die, the thought of not making the finals cuts deep. For us, it's a bare minimum and if we can get there we can do some damage.
"I'd be really bitterly disappointed if we weren't able to back that up again this year."
Meanwhile, the Ainslie Tricolours will look to stretch their lead atop the AFL Canberra ladder when they meet the Tuggeranong Hawks at Alan Ray Oval on Saturday.
Eastlake will host Belconnen in a top four showdown at Manuka Oval, while the Gungahlin Jets opened the round against the Queanbeyan Tigers on Friday.
Saturday: Canberra Demons v Redland Bombers at Manuka Oval, 12pm.
B: 37. R Budd, 12. J Spina, 35. T Highmore
HB: 18. A Baker, 2. A Paech, 25. S Martyn
C: 20. J Harper, 6. A Smout, 36. L Meline
HF: 4. A Bruce, 24. H Carr, 16. M Hardie
F: 13. T Faul, 11. R Corbett, 3. A Swan
R: 19. J Maynard, 17. J Osborne, 8. M Maguire
Int: 15. K Evans, 7. C Owen-Auburn, 27. R Pollock, 21. M Vardanega, 23. G Richardson
Emg: 30. J Adamson, 32. W Clark, 9. J Powell
B: 12. S Miller, 41. A Williams, 11. S Mills
HB: 7. M McGannon, 9. M Stallard, 4. P Yagmoor
C: 28. J Currie, 10. H Bertoli-Simmonds, 25. B Reville
HF: 6. C Spence, 13. C Cameron, 3. M Thomson
F: 24. J Kennealy, 8. M Hammelmann, 22. J Licht
R: 19. C Malone, 18. D Steven, 2. P Carse
Int: 17. K Baker, 1. A Christensen, 5. S Cormick, 20. S Rogers, 30. C Franks
Emg: 16. S Cunnington, 26. W Johnson, 29. K Walsh
Friday: Gungahlin Jets v Queanbeyan Tigers at Gungahlin Enclosed Oval, 6.30pm.
Saturday: Ainslie Tricolours v Tuggeranong Hawks at Alan Ray Oval, 1.15pm. Eastlake Demons v Belconnen Magpies at Manuka Oval, 3pm.