Carlos Spencer always planned to return to the Blues, not the Hurricanes.
Growing up it was different. Emerging through Horowhenua College in Levin, idolising Wellington and All Blacks wing Bernie Fraser, Spencer thought he would end up playing club rugby in the capital, a city he spent time laying drains with his father as a teenager.
One phone call from Sir Graham Henry swiftly altered that pathway. Spencer, 18 at the time, impressed against Henry's Auckland in Horowhenua's Ranfurly Shield challenge alongside one Christian Cullen in 1991.
The rest, as they say, is history. Spencer went on etch his name in Blues folklore, guiding the now troubled franchise to their last title in 2003, and playing almost 100 matches.
At his charismatic, audacious best, Spencer embodied a captivating mix of flair and finesse. He wasn't the perfect first five-eighth – rubbing Cantabrians especially up the wrong way on occasions. But his talent could not be denied.
Given his rich ties to the Blues – and the fact he made a cameo appearance with them at the Brisbane Global Tens in February – Spencer's move to join the Hurricanes coaching staff next year was a surprise.
While, for a born and raised Horowhenua product, his move to Wellington in December completes something of a full circle, Spencer admits the Blues were his first point of call.
"Being ex-Blues, that was always my goal to return there one day," Spencer said, donning a Hurricanes' polo alongside 2019 head coach John Plumtree. "I suppose I always thought I'd end up there before the Hurricanes.
"But the Hurricanes are probably the second team closest to my heart. I grew up in the Nua so it was just down the road from where I grew up. If there was ever another franchise I was going to go to in New Zealand it was probably going to be the Hurricanes."
The timing of Spencer's unveiling is also ironic, coming as it does in a week where the Hurricanes travel to Eden Park to take on the Blues.
And just like that, allegiances switch.
"I'm really passionate about the Blues. I spent a lot of time there over the years and they gave me a lot. My role with then Hurricanes starts next year so at the moment I suppose it is a foot in both camps.
"Watching the Blues, what they've gone through in the past and now, I feel for them. I wish they were doing a lot better because the passion and pride is still there for me. In terms of Friday night, I'm probably going to have to put my Hurricanes hat on."
Since hanging up the boots in a serious capacity, Spencer held assistant coaching roles with three South African teams – the Lions, Sharks, Kings and is now in the final year of a three-season deal at Japanese club Munakata Sanix Blues.
While somewhat unproven as a coach, Spencer helped John Mitchell guide the Lions to a Currie Cup title over the then Plumtree-led Sharks.
Ultimately, that success has led to his call-up to join the Hurricanes coaching team next year. Spencer will assume a broad brief, helping Plumtree with defence and Jason Holland with the backs. Richard Watt (forwards) and Dan Cron (scrum) have also recommitted for 2019.
"It was a pretty easy decision for me. I believe this franchise is going places they've been very successful in the past and I like the brand of rugby they are playing. They've got some pretty decent stock here I'm looking forward to getting stuck in with and they've got a good coaching group which also excites me.
"Hopefully I can bring some fresh ideas – maybe some freaky stuff, who knows. It depends what this guy is going to allow me to do. I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot from TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett, and if I can teach that along the way that's great."