Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley described seeing three best-22 players depart in cut-price AFL trades as his toughest day in footy.
The Magpies are reeling after star midfielder Adam Treloar, former Rising Star winner Jaidyn Stephenson and wingman Tom Phillips were forced elsewhere as they contend with a salary cap debacle.
Collingwood list manager Ned Guy on Thursday night claimed the salary cap issues were a "beat-up" and the Magpies were instead intent on improving their position at the draft.
But the club's large of army of fans are livid at the exodus and are not buying the excuses for losing players who were all contracted next year.
Buckley, who lost two grand finals as a Collingwood player and one as a coach, was shattered by losing the talented trio, as well as three-game youngster Atu Bosenavulagi.
"My toughest day in footy.... bar none," Buckley wrote on Twitter. "Managing contracted players who love the environment out of the club is a lose/lose situation in the short term. The decisions aren't popular but they were necessary.
"I wish Adam, Jaidyn, Tom and Atu all the best at their new clubs."
Treloar is off to the Western Bulldogs after 94 games with the Magpies since arrived at the club from Greater Western Sydney in 2015 for two first-round draft picks.
He was blindsided by the decision to move him on and was contracted at Collingwood until the end of the 2025 season.
Phillips was snapped up by Hawthorn in a bargain-basement deal, with the Hawks only giving up pick 65.
Stephenson and Bosenavulagi were both offloaded to North Melbourne.
Like Treloar, Stephenson was particularly stunned to be pressured into finding a new club.
The 21-year-old said his only contact with a senior Collingwood official about his playing future was when he called Buckley for clarification over his status and was told to pursue other opportunities.
While the Magpies pick up the pieces from a disastrous trade period, the Bulldogs are delighted to have secured Treloar as well as retaining fellow midfielder Josh Dunkley.
A member of the Bulldogs' leadership group, Dunkley was determined to switch to Essendon but a deal with the Bombers fell through.