If only politics could move at the same frightning speed as sport. The latter waits for no one, sweeping anyone without secure foundations mercilessly out of its path.

It doesn't take long for a career to be spun in the wrong direction; for a promising future to disappear and leave only a few realising that it was ever there.

Such sentiment is hovering this week in specific regard to Malakai Fekitoa who played a significant and memorable role for the All Blacks the last time they were in Brisbane.

It was his try in the last minute - when he had the pace and awareness to get on the outside of the Wallabies scrambling defence - that brought the All Blacks to within one point.


It was further proof that test football was his thing and would become more so when Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith cleared off.

But three years on and Fekitoa hasn't made it back to Brisbane. His future looks entirely different now to how it did that fateful night in 2014.

He's on his way to France having played his last game for Auckland. He may have pushed the door to the promised land ajar three years ago, but he never managed to actually get himself through it.

His performance in Brisbane turned out to be the peak, not the beginning of something and the question that is hard to avoid now is what went wrong?

How did Fekitoa go from being the heir apparent to Smith in 2014, to rank outsider in the space of just three years?

How was it that the likes of Anton Linert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue were able to help themselves to Fekitoa's future?

It is not an easy question to answer. There was no obvious fall from grace for Fekitoa.

There were no skeletons rumbling in his wardrobe: no known poor habits or obvious issues preventing him from advancing.


He was always in supreme condition, he avoided serious injuries and both the Highlanders and All Blacks coaching staff saw him as a young man with a desire to listen and learn.

Somehow it just didn't happen for him. His game never quite developed the smooth edges that it required. He didn't manage to refine and hone his game the way everyone expected.

He had the physique and the explosive power to defend and attack with all the venom and force required to fulfil the midfield roles in modern rugby.

But his decision-making remained a little laboured. The best centres quickly and easily spot where there might be a numerical advantage.

Fekitoa was often a split second too slow to see the chance and too often his skills under pressure lacked the accuracy they needed.

It was never obvious, but there was enough of a delay for the All Blacks coaches - supremely aware of the quality of everyone's micro skills - to see that Fekitoa was behind his peers in respect to the subtleties of his craft.

The picture was much the same defensively where he was capable of the most devastating tackles yet just as prone to read things wrongly, take an undue risk and leave his side exposed.

He was fortunate - in the extreme - to avoid a red card against Ireland in Dublin last year when he was caught by the speed of the escaping Simon Zebo and reacted by taking him around the neck.

Referee Jaco Peyper said yellow only, but the irate Irish crowd and All Blacks coaches knew it should have been red and while New Zealand survived that moment of madness, Fekitoa didn't.

That tackle probably sealed his fate in respect of where he stood in the All Blacks pecking order. That was probably the moment the coaching team concluded that Fekitoa hadn't developed the way they had hoped.

And why, instead of being on the plane to Brisbane today, Fekitoa is making his way to Toulon.