National One officially became part of the community game this year as the Rugby Football Union scaled down its already diminishing financial support to effectively nothing.
Not that it was a shock, everyone knew it was coming and the pro-active among the tier-three clubs were putting plans in place long before last season came to an end.
Some formalised dual-registration arrangements with professional partners further up the food chain, others pulled the odd rabbit from the sponsorship hat and a few have been left to battle on in a bid to keep the wolf from the clubhouse door.
Unfortunately there have been casualties.
Happily the two West Midlands representatives, Stourbridge and Coventry, have managed to keep their heads above water despite fears they would struggle.
Cov’s relegation from the Championship has had a galvanising effect in many respects. The mercenaries have melted away and after top-slicing the best talent from the Warwickshire area Phil Maynard appears to have built a squad of locals that wants to be at Butts Park and wear the Blue and White.
Clearly that process was always going to take time. With only a handful of players remaining, Maynard and Dave Addleton had more changed variables to consider than a card counter in a Nevadan sandstorm.
But shrewd signings like Nick Southern and Martin Kent allied with the loyalty of Ben Russell, Sam Herrington and Mike Walls and a smattering of talented youngsters have come together to build a side many in the city are enjoying watching.
Indeed you don’t have to go too far to find supporters who prefer level three to level two.
Across the region, Stourbridge have capitalised on Worcester’s relegation and considering the fact they had only seven players when pre-season training started in July, their climb to fifth place has been spectacular.
Stunning victories at Blackheath and Cambridge and decent performances at Stourton Park have condemned losses in their opening two fixtures to little more than distant memory.
Consistency in selection in the backline, which at the time of writing has seen just two changes in the last five matches, has helped create a unit that is a threat to every team in the league.
And so far they have been clever enough to distract opponents from the fact they lack bulk in the forwards. Something they will be keen to continue doing in the coming months.
Stourbridge Player Of 2010: Ben Hughes - The captain is the most indispensible player at Stourton Park
Coventry Player Of 2010: Sam Herrington - Not many who have been around for a year but Herrington has become a pack leader