After years of watching their best talent up pegs and head overseas lured by the pound, yen or franc, you'd imagine the New Zealand Rugby Union might sit back tonight with a wry smile on their collective face.
Although it's hardly akin to getting an Andrew Mehrtens or a Carlos Spencer home, Tajhon Mailata's presence on the Bay of Plenty Steamers bench in tonight's Air New Zealand Cup clash with Taranaki signals a rare win for the NZRU in its fight to tie the best talent to home.
Mailata was last night given clearance to play by the Australian Rugby Union, to whom he's been contracted since he was a schoolboy, taking his place with the Bay reserves.
The former Australian schoolboy star, who played one Super 14 game for John Mitchell's Western Force this season, joined the Steamers on Monday, with the Bay union working through the week to get him cleared to turn out against Taranaki at Blue Chip Stadium.
Mailata, who prefers fullback but can play wing or centre, has been fast-tracked by the New Zealand Rugby Union into the Bay squad after being fitness-tested by the Chiefs Super 14 franchise earlier this week.
Mailata needs to play in the Air NZ Cup tonight _ before the repechage rounds start _ to be eligible to play in the rest of this season's provincial competition.
It also has implications for New Zealand Super 14 selection next year and any future involvement with the Steamers. If clearance wasn't received in time, Mailata, who has moved back to New Zealand from Australia, would have been restricted to playing for the Bay development side for the rest of the season.
Mailata, 20, is a quality prospect, which probably explains why the Australian union wasn't moving too fast this week to grant him a release.
He played one game for the Western Force this season but it is understood he has returned home after falling out of favour with Mitchell.
Steamers coach Andre Bell said they got a call from the NZRU earlier in the week offering Tajhon's services.
"The NZRU's been trying to push [his clearance] through although it's a rare one _ a New Zealand player who has headed back from overseas at such a young age.
"Obviously, having been involved in Super 14 this season he comes with a good pedigree, and I think it's quite innovative of the rugby union to look to contract a guy like this."
The Auckland-born player, who has family in Bay of Plenty, moved to Australia with his family 10 years ago and attended Brisbane's Nudgee College.
In 2003 he won the Bronze Boot, awarded to the top Australian schoolboy representative. Last year he was part of the Australian under-21 team and also played for the under-19 sides in 2003 and 2004.
Bell watched as the 1.84m, 102kg fullback/midfielder was put through his paces this week.
"He's impressive. It's been three weeks since he last played so he's a bit out of shape but ... he's got some skills, complemented by a bit of size."