Country coach Craig Fitzgibbon fired one last parting shot at the NRL over their handling of the axed fixture on Sunday.
City claimed the final honours in the not-to-be continued concept, ending 90 years of rivalry between the bush and the big smoke, including the last 30 in an Origin format.
However they did so after more than 50 players became unavailable for selection earlier in the week, after Canterbury coach Des Hasler barred the majority of his players from selection ahead of fears of a four-day turnaround.
And Fitzgibbon laid the blame for the farce squarely on the NRL after the Mudgee match.
“It happened last year on a four-day turnaround – half our team had to have it,” Fitzgibbon said.
“To do it again the year after, I don’t understand it.
“The pressure on the clubs was unfair. They’ve got a job to do as well.
“Just don’t put a game on four days later.”
Last season both St George Illawarra and Canberra were forced to play just four days after the fixture in Tamworth.
Players from both teams were rushed out of the venue on a Sunday night flight in that instance, but reported finding the following game more difficult than most, even with monitored and limited training programs.
Fitzgibbon – along with a number of former City and Country players – has emphasised the importance of the annual fixture throughout the week not only for the bush but for the development of his own players before they return to the NRL.
“Both teams had nine debutants tonight,” he said.
“So to be able to provide an opportunity for nine players on each side to be able to make their debut at a rep level and the standards – that was a damn hard game for everyone involved.”
He, along with City coach Brad Fittler, also emphasised the importance of the league finding a way to replace the regional fixture in coming years.
At this stage, only Penrith have a deal with a country NSW town to continue bringing games to the bush, which will see them playing in Bathurst until at least the end of 2028.
“I just hope they provide other access,” Fitzgibbon said.
“Whether it’s NRL teams coming out this way or get rebooted in another way I’m not sure.”