The Bulldogs will go into Saturday night's home clash against Boggabri with an injury-depleted lineup and with heavy hearts.
Heath King - the team's "mascot" and the younger brother of Bulldogs winger Lachlan King - passed away in his sleep on Saturday due to a long-standing heath issue(s), according to Bulldogs coach John Hickey.
On Sunday, the team gathered with the King family and other community members to remember the youngster who loved being in charge of the kicking tee on match days.
Hickey said "there's no doubt the boys will play with Heath in mind [on Saturday] and do the best they can on the day".
The Bulldogs got a much-needed win in their last match, beating Narrabri 38-24 on the road, but it came at an injury cost: winger Paul Sharpely (hamstring), centre Regan Walsh (ankle), second-rower Jason Smith (shoulder) and replacement back-rower Rod Lawler (knee) will not play on Saturday.
Lawler told Hickey he would not play again. "He just can't take the risk with work to take it [his league career] any further," Hickey said.
Gunnedah will also be with rake Kurt Hartmann on Saturday because he has another commitment.
They will face a Boggabri side coming off their first ever win in the competition - a moral-boosting 22-18 defeat of the Cowboys in Dungowan.
Hickey said of Boggabri: "They're a good football team now and they've got a good set of forwards.
"So it'll be a battle either way for us. But whatever it is, it is - it all pales into insignificance at the end of the day when you look at it like this [Heath's passing].
"But there's no doubt the boys will play with Heath in mind and do the best they can on the day."
Gunnedah cancelled Thursday night training this week to honour Heath.