The shock code switch of Wallabies star Mark Nawaqanitawase could prove a major boost for the ACT Brumbies in their efforts to retain star winger Corey Toole.
Nawaqanitawase's decision to join the Sydney Roosters has led to speculation fellow NRL clubs will launch a raid on rugby union talent.
The Brumbies have 17 players coming off-contract at the end of next season and a number of stars with rugby league experience as teenagers.
The cash on offer in rugby league exceeds that available domestically for union players and could rise significantly as the NRL ponders salary cap exemptions for code switchers.
ACT officials, however, have no concerns rugby league clubs will poach their stars.
Brumbies general manager Chris Thomson is hard at work progressing talks with the team's off contract players and remains confident they will remain in Canberra.
"The players we have are committed to the sport and Australian rugby," Thomson said. "While it's disappointing to see Mark leave, it certainly provides an opportunity for others to step into that role. There are plenty of good [outside backs] around the country."
The Waratahs loss could be the Brumbies gain as Toole prepares for his second season of Super Rugby.
The former Australian sevens star set the competition alight in 2023 and many smart judges believe it is only a matter of time before he plays for the Wallabies.
Toole is off-contract at the end of next season and a high priority for the Brumbies.
Club officials are currently working with Rugby Australia to finalise which players will receive national contracts, and thus higher wages in the battle to ward off both the NRL and wealthy international rugby union teams.
Nawaqanitawase reportedly sacrificed $300,000 to leave rugby and his exit will free up plenty of cash for RA to spend on other outside backs.
Given his potential, Toole could be one of the primary beneficiaries from this situation over the coming years.
While rugby league wingers have evolved into bigger bodies, pint-sized speedsters have thrived in the Test rugby union arena.
South African outside backs Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse played a key role in the Springboks' run to the World Cup, with Toole boasting a similar body shape and playing style.
"We'd love to see Corey exposed to [the international] level," Thomson said.
"He's certainly got a point of difference with his pace and toughness. We see that with the profile of the wingers that play for South Africa [and the success they've had]."
The list of potential NRL targets is as long as it is varied, with Brumbies duo Billy Pollard and Luke Reimer among the names thrown up.
Pollard has rebuffed rugby league interest on multiple occasions, most recently last year when he signed a contract extension to remain with the Brumbies until the end of the 2025 season.
Reimer is off contract next year, played league as a junior and reportedly previously had interest from the Parramatta Eels.
ACT coach Stephen Larkham used Reimer as a match-changing substitute off the bench throughout 2023 and it's expected he'll continue to play a key role next year.
"He's shown great value in his ability to make an impact on a game," Thomson said. "Steve used him strategically in 2023, now we're looking at how we can get more of that with more game time in 2024."