Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding stopped being heroes long before today
181 games and 947 points over seven seasons for Ulster. 29 Test appearances and 200 points for Ireland. Thanks but no thanks.
At 25 and 26-years-old, Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson are moving on.
The Belfast natives both achieved their long-held ambition of playing for Ulster back in 2011. Both were special talents and were playing for Ireland in less than two years.
Jackson's rise was rapid and Olding, a versatile back, was only held back by a couple of knee injuries. Their career trajectory suggested they would both be key figures for Ireland in the 2019 World Cup.
On April 14th 2018, Ulster and the IRFU revoked their playing contracts. They are done with Ulster and will most likely never represent Ireland again.
They were genuine stars in Ulster. Fans were rapt with Jackson's story as he learned most of his hard rugby lessons right out on the pitch and under the glare. He was pitched into a Heineken Cup final at 20 and endured a tough time of it only to emerge stronger.
Olding was tipped for the very top at a young age and battled back from two prolonged periods on the sidelines to repay those who had placed faith in him and force his way into Joe Schmidt's Ireland plans.
They were role models; heroes to so many, young, old and in between. They stopped being Ulster Rugby players today but that hero worship has been receding for some time now. They are not who they once were, and who they wished themselves to be.
The joint statement released by Ulster and the IRFU noted that the players' contracts had been revoked with immediate effect after the conclusion of an internal review. Both men had been found not guilty, in March, of rape and assault charges after a drawn-out trial in Belfast but the internal review sealed their fate.
The final two paragraphs of the joint statement reads:
'In arriving at this decision, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby acknowledge our responsibility and commitment to the core values of the game: Respect, Inclusivity and Integrity.
'It has been agreed, as part of this commitment, to conduct an in-depth review of existing structures and educational programmes, within the game in Ireland, to ensure the importance of these core values is clearly understood, supported and practised at every level of the game.'
The statement was relatively short and it was devoid of emotion. The news was delivered straight, as it should have been, and with no acknowledgement to the playing contributions of either man. Craig Gilroy, their former teammate at Ulster, was also hit with a suspension for a private message sent via WhatsApp that emerged during the Belfast trial.
While both players thanked Ulster Rugby and Ireland - as well as family and friends - the feeling was not mutual from their former employers.
Given the seriousness of the offences from Jackson and Olding - with respect and integrity their major failings on and around that fateful house party in Jackson's house on June 26th 2016 - saying 'thank you' would have rankled with many.
Both men will now look to rebuild their lives over the coming months. Whether or not those lives include playing professionally for another side remains to be seen.
The events of June 26th 2016 will forever be with them, but they are not the only ones.