He arrived amid much hoopla and expectation as a Hawks basketball import on Monday but only four days later David Barlow was back in Melbourne yesterday.
Barlow had requested an urgent meeting with the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise team late on Wednesday afternoon before catching an 8.30pm flight to Auckland and on to Australia.
"He said he had to go back home for family reasons and he was pretty gutted he had to leave the franchise," said Hawks general manager Kevin Wagg before the Hawks compete in the three-day pre-season NBL Blitz in Palmerston North from today.
The Zico Coronel-coached side will open their campaign with a 7pm tip-off against the Southland Sharks at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Napier, on Thursday next week.
Wagg said as disappointed as the franchise was they had released the 34-year-old former Boomer with their blessings after he had arrived here at 4pm on Monday.
Barlow had attended the franchise's NBL season-launching function at the Bev Ridges at York in Tamatea on Tuesday evening with sponsors.
"At the end of the day the family comes first. He's got a wife [Tiwi] and two children — a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old — who were supposed to turn up here in a fortnight from Melbourne," he said, revealing they were going to join Barlow at the Kennedy Park Resort in Napier.
"Something must have happened [Wednesday] morning because he had had a good training at the Pettigrew-Green Arena but in the afternoon requested a meeting and informed us he had to go back home for family reasons."
The franchise chief executive, Keith Price, had driven the power forward to the Hawke's Bay Regional Airport.
Wagg said the franchise had no qualms about his departure because they went by the edict of "Hawks whanau" so they granted him an immediate release.
"He had sent a message to the players [on Wednesday night], in just two short lines, that basically said, 'Sorry guys, family circumstances have changed so I wish you all well for the season'."
He said there wasn't any fallout between the player and the franchise but simply a matter of priority for Barlow.
"It just came down to his wife and children weren't going to travel. When you have two young kids, being away for three months is a very long time. There were definitely no hard feelings.
"With them deciding not to come to New Zealand to be with him, he felt he had to return home."
Wagg said if a player was homesick or isolated from his family then it was logical to assume his performance wasn't going to be up to either party's expectations.
"We spoke to him all the way in the car to the airport and wished him well and he was welcome back any time he wished to return to New Zealand with his family."
Barlow is a two-time Australian Olympian and helped his Melbourne United team claim the Australian NBL crown on March 31.
Coronel, who saw Barlow's No 4 position as imperative in determining how well a team plays as a group, will now need to find a replacement for the veteran player who stands at 2.05m. He had described the Aussie as "a willing passer and is very efficient in his use of the shot clock".
Barlow's portfolio included shooting from the perimeter to enable the Hawks to spread the opposition defence as well as helping put up the shutters.
The Australian big had delivered many clutch moments, including a dagger three in game one to help eliminate the SkyCity New Zealand Breakers in the ANBL semifinal series.
In the five-game finals series victory (3-2) over the Adelaide 36ers, Barlow had averaged 17 minutes, 6.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and shot 10 from 17 from the three-point line.
"As a franchise we're absolutely gutted," said Wagg who said the franchise was in the hunt for a No 4 replacement.
Coronel had picked Barlow out of a list of 20 players and was now sifting through those who had not signed contracts during that phase, to settle for two.
Asked if they were Aussies, Wagg said it was "a mixture" that included a non-Aussie as well.
Fellow Aussie import Angus Brandt, a Gold Coast Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning Boomer and Perth Wildcats centre, is the tallest in the Hawks squad at 2.08m.
Rookie head coach Coronel, a 13-season NBL assistant who had an illustrious career spanning numerous NBL crowns, has championed a Hawks squad that has immense depth but Barlow's withdrawal will prompt him to revisit his template.
"We travel to Blitz [today] and we've got four games in three days and then we have our first home game on Thursday [next week]."
However, Wagg emphasised the franchise wasn't desperate for a player although it would be a challenge to sign another player of Barlow's calibre.