Raw passion and emotion emanated through many of New Zealand rugby's greatest Pacific Island leaders as conditional licences were granted to Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua to join a new 12-team Super Rugby competition from next year.
Conditional licences signal work remains to finalise the respective business cases, keeping the celebratory kava on ice for now, but as far as the long overdue welcome of Pasifika teams and pathways into the mainstream elite, this landmark announcement represents the symbolic cutting of the red ribbon.
While NZ Rugby and Rugby Australia are yet to fully agree terms on their respective five teams joining forces with Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua, an about-face from here would be a major embarrassment for all involved.
It was only fitting Sir Michael Jones and Sir Bryan Williams held court at NZ Rugby offices in Auckland today.
Through the 1970s Williams broke the ceiling for aspiring Pacific athletes, inspiring Jones and many, many others to follow his great feats for the All Blacks - last year alone, 50 per cent of Ian Foster's squad held Pacific heritage.
As Williams explained, however, the arrival of professionalism cast Fiji, Samoa and Tonga as outsiders, excluding them from the top table.
Some 26 years on, only now are those Island nations preparing to be welcomed back into the fold.
"It's been 25 years of a sense of grievance," Williams reflected. "We'd made quarter-finals at the '91 and '95 World Cups. Fiji made the quarter-finals in 1987. Tonga did so well in 2007 ... and here we are left out in the cold."
No more is the erosion of Pacific rugby evident in Samoa's 14th world ranking - two places behind Georgia.
"As you can imagine, there's been a great sense of disappointment for so many. The journey has taken us to here."
Williams described himself as a true-blue New Zealander, All Blacks and Blues supporter but so, too, has he always been a proud Pacific Islander.
"It's the blood that courses through our veins and that's why we want this to happen, and it is happening. Better now than never."
Emulating the passion from Williams, his boyhood hero, Jones spoke with mana of the generational change both teams could achieve in time.
Jones hopes the Island nations can again break into the world's top eight. He went as far as predicting Moana Pasifika - a joint Samoan and Tongan team - and the Fijian Drua would be competitive and reach a semifinal within three years.
"If that happens then we've really arrived as a global game," Jones said.
Having played for and coached Samoa outside his 55 tests for the All Blacks, and now serving on the NZ Rugby board, Jones is another with blended heritage.
"In this part of the world we probably see ourselves as the big brother or older cousin but we are intricately connected at so many levels with Pacific Island rugby," Jones said.
"I can assure you there's dancing on the streets out there in many of the villages in the Pacific.
"Come 2022 the mystique, flavour, everything that Pacific rugby brings will be evident to spice up that new tournament. It's going to have a look, feel and touch like never before. That's what the fans have been telling us they want.
"We go with a great amount of passion and confidence into the future. These become pathways for young aspiring Pacific men and, eventually, a women's programme.
"I'm a true believer that rugby is a vehicle for transformation empowerment – I am a byproduct of that."
Behind the scenes, Moana Pasifika co-chairman Pelenato Sakalia has assumed much of the responsibility associated with compiling a credible business case for the team that will be based in south Auckland and play home matches at Mt Smart Stadium – causing major concerns for the Blues. The Fijian Drua are expected to be based in Suva.
Sakalia choked back tears as he explained the burden everyone involved in Moana Pasifika has carried, thanking NZ Rugby for their bold decision to back the Pacific teams to now prove they have the necessary funding.
"The empowerment model is something Moana Pasifika and Fiji will embrace," Sakalia said. "It's in our blood. It's what we do. We have the people. We have the numbers and, more importantly, we have the diverse skill sets to make this a reality."
NZ Rugby's formal backing allows Moana Pasifika to fast-track negotiations with private investors as they attempt to raise the $9-10 million needed to fund the team annually - $5-6 million of which will be spent on coaching, management and players.
Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua will also share $2.3m in annual funding from World Rugby, guaranteed for an initial three-years, and split an expected $5m in broadcast revenue.
"This clarity now enables us to conclude our investment discussions. The impact of the board coming out so clearly puts a stake in the ground," Sakalia said.
"We need to have all our agreements unconditional by the end of June. We need to have real clarity around our playing roster, management, coaches, sponsors by then."
In a matter of months, the first major step in Pacific rugby's rebuild could be a reality.