THE merge between the Noradjuha Grass Parrots and the Quantong Bombers happened quicker than most had expected.
Officials from the two sides met in the middle of 1996 and by the beginning of the 1997 season, they were playing together under one banner.
Noradjuha's last club president Tony Kirchner oversaw the Grass Parrots final attempts to stay afloat, before taking the reins as the president of the merged club for their first two years.
Kirchner said the lack of numbers at Noradjuha hit a boiling point before the start of the 1997 season.
"In '97, we had 24 players signed up to play across our two sides, and a bulk of them in the seconds were about my age, probably 40-odd," Kirchner said. "We simply couldn't keep going. At the end of the day, a merger was the only option."
Quantong were also in trouble, not long after a period of senior success. The Bombers had won back-to-back senior football premierships in 1993 and 1994, but had experienced a steep drop off in players in the following years.
With the populations of both communities dwindling, Quantong committee member and club legend Greg "Spud" Francis said the decision to act on a merger happened quite suddenly.
"After the premierships in 1993-94, the writing was on the wall really quickly," Francis said. "We probably could have survived on our own but I really don't know if we were going to be all that successful.
"I could see in a couple of years time we were really going to struggle. Noradjuha were probably in the same boat as us, and I just thought we had better reach out to them before they reached out to somebody else."
Noradjuha considered turning to their closest competitors in Natimuk, but decided Quantong were a better fit, with the two communities sharing similarities in size and identity.
"There was the option of both clubs," Kirchner said. "We made inquiries with both... but we had a pretty good relationship with Quantong as an opposition club.
"In the end, they were the right fit for us. They had the same ethos you could say, just an easy going crew and we got along with them well."
Noradjuha and Natimuk also had an long running rivalry, and Noradjuha committee member Trevor Watson said joining forces might have been a step too far.
"There was always a pretty good rivalry between Noradjuha and Natimuk in the old days, so that might have been a reason why we steered away," Watson said.
"We were in a different league to Quantong in the early days [Central Wimmera league] so we didn't quite have the same relationship."
The merge went through with overwhelming support.
But unlike some of the Wimmera's other merged clubs - Harrow-Balmoral, Minyip-Murtoa, Southern Mallee Giants - the amalgamation of Noradjuha-Quantong did not immediately result in a period of success. In the 21 seasons since the merger, the Bombers are yet to win a senior football premiership.
Their trophy cabinet is instead overflowing with the success of the netballers. Noradjuha-Quantong has won four A Grade, 11 B Grade, seven C Grade and seven under-17 premierships since the merger, including the 2018 B Grade flag.
Former long-serving netball director Jenny Kirchner said she wan't sure what led to the long-running success and a shining light of the club.
"The netball has been quite successful since the merger - I'd say there probably hasn't been a year without one of our teams in a grand final," she said.
"It has probably been just a combination of having some really outstanding players and coaches, and everyone being really keen to come together and succeed."
The story of Noradjuha-Quantong is similar to many Horsham District league clubs in the late 20th century. District clubs without a central township found it harder and harder to find the numbers, with declining country populations and young people more frequently moving away from the country.
"Farms were getting bigger, towns were getting smaller," Francis said.
"Everyone goes to the regional centers and it makes it hard for the district clubs to keep going."
But while there is not much of a population base in Noradjuha or Quantong, the football-netball club continues to provide a central hub with a loyal base of fans, volunteers and players that span across generations.
Tony Kirchner said keeping the town names was vitally important.
"There's not much of a Noradjuha to start with, there's not much of a Quantong either," he said.
"But we still have a name. Noradjuha still has a name, it still survives, and that is pretty important.
"We've got a name on the football club, and a place for the locals coming through to keep playing team sport."
And while there hasn't yet been the senior football success so many have sought after, Francis said there was far more to the club.
"As far as I'm concerned, we've been a very successful club since the merger," Francis said.
"Success is not all about premierships - it's about providing a place where people can socialise and play a team sport
"Especially the juniors. For them to get to know the ins and outs of a team sport, and to work together with their peers, that grows into their future years."