The Waratahs have confirmed playmaker Bernard Foley will not return to the club next season on a day the offshore departures of Melbourne Rebels duo Will Genia and Quade Cooper was also rubber-stamped.
It has been no secret Foley, one of the Waratahs' favourites sons who kicked a famous penalty in the 2014 Super Rugby final has, like a number of his countrymen, been exploring options abroad after the World Cup in Japan.
Foley is set to join Kubota Spears in Japan's Top League, with a deal yet to be announced by the club.
While the 29-year-old had a brief stint in the Top League before the 2016 Super Rugby season, this will be a longer deal that could keep him abroad until 2021.
However, Foley is eligible to return for the Wallabies whenever he likes given he has reached the 60-Test threshold required for overseas-based Australian players.
"It's not been an easy decision and something that took a lot of thinking but to move on from the Waratahs and not be around is very bittersweet," Foley said. "The Waratahs have been massive to me and I've loved every moment here. It's going to be a new challenge for me and I'm looking forward to that."
Meanwhile, Japanese club Kintetsu Liners, a second division side, confirmed on Thursday afternoon it had signed Genia and Cooper, the latter of whom could join his new teammates as early as September if he is overlooked for the Wallabies World Cup squad. The trio of Foley, Genia and Cooper have played 238 Tests between them and their tandem departure is a major blow to Australian rugby.
Cooper, who has 70 Tests to his name, had a decent start to the Super Rugby season at his new club but fell off at the back-end and was omitted from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika's Rugby Championship squad.
Genia and Rugby Australia were unable to strike a new deal for the halfback, who at 31 is a long shot to go around again for the World Cup in 2023.
Genia and Foley are both in South Africa training with the Wallabies ahead of their upcoming Test next Saturday (Sunday AEST) against South Africa in Johannesburg.
With five Tests before the World Cup kicks off on September 21 for the Australians in Japan, Foley understands the importance of the next few months and says he wants to play a major role in the success of the Wallabies who need their most potent weapons firing on all cylinders.
"It's a massive year for us in rugby and for rugby in Australia," Foley said. "It's not like I'm removing myself immediately from Australian rugby. Hopefully I will have a massive part to play for what is left this year with the Rugby Championship and then the Rugby World Cup. That's the absolute pinnacle and all efforts will be going towards being able to contribute to what is hopefully a Wallabies win."
Foley made his debut for the Waratahs in 2011 and chalked up 119 appearances - the most of any NSW five-eighth. His 1095 points puts him alongside some of the greats in sky blue and one would think Foley may not yet have played his final game for the franchise.
"I owe a lot to the Waratahs," Foley said. "They gave me my first opportunity at professional rugby. I feel I've learnt so much and grown so much. I got to play with some of the game's greats and build relationships with a lot of people on and off the field that I reckon I'll hold onto for life.
"I have so many great memories about the journey we were on as a team in 2014 and the ups and downs. We just were able to go on such an incredible run and win the last 10 games straight, which led into that final. My best memories of that night was just seeing the joy and looks on everyone's faces and how noisy that stadium was. It really erupted. That was a really special memory and one I will hold for a long time."