Reds dig deep to help Australian rugby
It was complicated, emotional and fractious but Quade Cooper, James Slipper and Karmichael Hunt have all made a positive leap into life beyond the Queensland Reds.
All three added considerable value to their new clubs in key positions on the opening weekend of Super Rugby in a win for Australian rugby at large.
It's not exactly true that the Queensland Rugby Union had no stake in opening week with the Reds on a bye.
The QRU is still paying a slice of the contract money on all three players, one of the curious side-effects of the chess moves to shift the trio from Reds deals active into 2019.
That's right, the Reds will still pay a smallish cut of Cooper's contract for this season even though he's performing for the Melbourne Rebels.
Likewise, for prop Slipper at the Brumbies and centre Hunt at the NSW Waratahs.
The QRU will feel they have clear air at last to move on and they were prepared to pay for it.
Flyhalf Cooper's excellent display for the Rebels in the 34-27 win over the Brumbies reminded all of his deft passing touches, footwork and organisational skills.
What should be trumpeted as loudly are the excellent patterns of play that coach Dave Wessels created for the Rebels which helped Cooper excel.
A Cooper season has always been a rollercoaster so it would be great to see him back it up against the Highlanders in Melbourne for a 2-0 start on March 1.
Slipper was part of a dominant Brumbies scrum and one hurtling run with the ball showed his intent to get back in Wallabies' discussions as well.
Hunt was forceful in defence and made several strong second half ball-carries for the Waratahs in the narrow loss to the Hurricanes.
If Bernard Foley had knocked over his late penalty goal attempt for a win, rather than a near-miss, it really would have been an opening weekend to celebrate.
"Nearly beating the Kiwis" is too common and too empty a theme.
Isi Naisarani (Rebels) and Rob Valetini (Brumbies) were eye-catchers, Pete Samu (Brumbies) has added kilograms and impact and Jack Dempsey (Waratahs) did some good things.
All are backrowers and that is a key area where Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has to finally stop fumbling around and pick the right trio to attack the World Cup.
There was a lot of boo-hooing about the coaching clarity and performance of the Wallabies last year but Cheika, the selector, was as poor as either.
The Reds have a tough one first-up against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday night but rain, mud, a fierce wind and sun in the eyes cannot be excuses.
It's being played under a roof in perfect conditions for a perfect upset.