Nigel Ah Wong was at a loose end.
The former ACT Brumbies flyer was a familiar face on the Japanese circuit before the COVID-19 pandemic left him seeking an alternative.
So Manawatu it was, in New Zealand's provincial competition. But even that was only supposed to be a stop gap before he chased another overseas opportunity.
"I was trying to get stuff ready to go overseas but with restrictions and visa issues it fell through," Ah Wong said.
So he finds himself back on the wing for the Tuggeranong Vikings, where he played a starring role in their 36-7 season-opening win over the Queanbeyan Whites in the John I Dent Cup at Viking Park on Saturday.
MORE RUGBY UNION
But the scoreboard can only tell so much of the story. The Whites played with 14 men for almost 80 minutes after Brumbies prop Sefo Kautai was sent off for a high shot, and with a makeshift forward pack troubled the Vikings for the majority.
"Queanbeyan is a very strong team, a very strong club, we knew we'd be up for a tough run. We knew we had to come out ready," Ah Wong said.
"Even though they had an early red card, they still proved difficult for the whole 80.
"It was awesome just to reconnect with a lot of old faces I've played with in the past and some fresh young faces. It's good to see the young boys coming through.
"Canberra has been a second home to me so it was good to come back and give back to the club that gave me my first shot when I first came here."
The day was not so good for the Queanbeyan pack. Kautai arrived to bolster the Brumbies' front-row stocks during an injury and suspension crisis last month and was desperate to make a statement for his new club.
But he mistimed a heavy shot on Vikings winger Maika Ravouvou and was sent from the field in the 14th minute by referee Brodie Ingram to leave the Whites one man down.
They had already spent 10 minutes undermanned when captain Matt Taylor was yellow-carded - though this task would prove far more challenging.
Neori Nadruku filled the void in the scrum as two sides battled to establish dominance that would give their outside backs room to move.
Yet Nadruku failed to see out the half, nor would Yabaki Seeto as he was helped off the field. Both have suspected torn hamstrings.
"Very tough losing Freddie Kahea during the week. We had to move Zane Hogan over to loosehead, and then our tighthead gets a red card," French said.
"We had six or seven combinations in the front-row. We had a No. 8 playing in the row for the first time ever. We had a debutant loosehead come on.
"Our whole pack was completely out of position and they were opting to take the points at scrum time, we were winning tighthead penalties at scrum time.
"It's not what I wanted round one, but that Tuggeranong side will be vulnerable moving forward in my opinion. If that's all they're going to produce against 14-man side with an absolutely cobbled together pack, good luck to them next week against Wests."
Wests enter that showdown on the back of a 39-22 win over Gungahlin, while Uni-Norths toppled reigning premiers Canberra Royals 34-26.
AT A GLANCE
John I Dent Cup round one: TUGGERANONG VIKINGS 36 (Seamus Smit, Jack Wright, Andrew Robinson, Trai Henderson, Patrick Matah try; Isaac Thompson 2, Josiah Lealiifano 2 conversions; Thompson penalty) bt QUEANBEYAN WHITES 7 (Tony Alofipo try; Alofipo conversion) at Viking Park.
UNI-NORTHS OWLS 34 (Stuart Sellar 2, Siave Tema 2, Jordan Thompson tries; Thompson 3 conversions; Thompson penalty) bt CANBERRA ROYALS 26 (Will Burden, James Bundy, Ben Johnston, N/A tries; N/A 3 conversions) at ANU North Oval.
WESTS LIONS 39 (Declan Meredith 2, Matthew Toward, Lachlan ALbert, Hary O'Leary, N/A tries; Meredith 3 conversions; Meredith penalty) bt GUNGAHLIN EAGLES 22 (Corey Toole 2, Brandon Taueki tries; Joseph Caputo 2 conversions; Caputo penalty) at Nicholls Enclosed Oval.
ACT Women's Premier XVs round one: TUGGERANONG VIKINGS 31 (Teliya Hetaraka, Michaela Leonard, Makayla Morris, *two N/A* tries; Morris 3 conversions) bt QUEANBEYAN WHITES 7 (N/A) at Viking Park.
CANBERRA ROYALS 24 (Ellie Brislane 2, Grace Kemp, Niki Paterson tries; Pateron, Brooke Gilroy conversions) bt UNI-NORTHS OWLS 14 (Sarah Hume, Milika Tuinakauvadra tries; Tuinakauvadra 2 conversions)at ANU North Oval.