The ACT Brumbies are set to go all in to keep Noah Lolesio in Australian rugby, resisting the temptation to chase one of the sport's rising stars.
The prospect of the debt-laden Melbourne Rebels folding after this season could throw the contract market into disarray and trigger a feeding frenzy for the club's players both domestically and overseas.
Should that happen, flyhalf Carter Gordon will become one of the hottest free agents in the country.
The 23-year-old played with an attacking flair that catapulted him to a Wallabies debut last year.
The Brumbies, however, are keen to stick by Lolesio, who was overlooked by former Australian coach Eddie Jones despite leading his franchise to the Super Rugby semi-finals.
The 24-year-old has attracted interest from overseas clubs throughout the past two years and flirted with the idea of departing the ACT after last season. He ultimately opted to remain for the final year of his contract.
The youngster received a taste of international club rugby late last year when he signed with Toulon on a short-term deal. Lolesio produced a number of impressive performances and has expressed his desire to return to France one day.
ACT officials are determined to retain the flyhalf for 2025 and beyond, with the lure of potential involvement in the 2025 British and Irish Lions series and 2027 World Cup on home soil a once in a generation opportunity.
Talk of the pair's future sets the stage for a fascinating clash between the two playmakers when ACT plays Melbourne in round one. Lolesio made no secret of what the one-on-one dual meant to him last season when he sent a direct message to Gordon after scoring a try.
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has been impressed with his flyhalf's attitude since returning from France.
Lolesio had his first taste of rugby for the year in Saturday's 22-20 trial win over the Western Force in Perth. The playmaker was impressive in around 50 minutes of action, dictating the team's attack and producing opportunities for his outside backs.
For Larkham, wins and losses are the ultimate judge of how a flyhalf has performed and he said representative honours will follow if Lolesio can lead his side to Super Rugby glory.
"Wallabies selection is a long way down the track," Larkham said. "If he preps right each week and makes sure he has a good connection with his teammates, he'll put some good performances together.
"If we get the performances right, those selections will look after each other."
Lolesio is set to play an increased role throughout the first month of the Super Rugby season, with backup flyhalf Jack Debreczeni recovering from a foot injury.
Emerging playmaker Declan Meredith will likely step in as the bench utility as he builds on a successful 2023. The 24-year-old made his Brumbies debut, was named the John I Dent player of the year and was a standout at flyhalf during the end of season tour of Japan.
While he was initially viewed as an outside back, Larkham said the youngster has the talent to step up in such a crucial position.
"There will be a few nerves for him," Larkham said. "Coming in last year he gave us coverage at fullback, he played the Japan games at flyhalf, the trial against the Drua and then had some good minutes off the bench on Saturday night and controlled the game well.
"He played the John I Dent Cup at 10 last year and previously when he was in Cairns before moving down here was a 10. He's got the background and he'll keep working hard but it's not as easy as saying he'll be ready straight away. You need to play a few games to understand where you're at."