In the case of Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, the NRL's loss has been New Zealand Rugby's gain.
The impressive young outside back is set to embark on his first season in Super Rugby this year, signing on with the Blues for three years following a breakout Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Taranaki.
With speed, size and skill, the 19-year-old turned a lot of heads while wearing the amber and black hoops, and had interest from the Chiefs and Hurricanes but opted for the move to Auckland.
But while he's settling into life in the big city now, it wasn't long ago that his sporting future looked like playing out in a much different way.
After impressing scouts at an age-grade rugby league competition, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens signed a three-year development deal with the Parramatta Eels in 2017 at 15-years-old. The deal saw him travel from across the Tasman on a regular basis for training camps and games through until his final year of school, at which point he planned a permanent move from New Plymouth to western Sydney.
He looked set to join the 13-man code, but playing with his older brother, Isaac, for the Francis Douglas Memorial College 1st XV rekindled his love for union.
After plenty of discussion with family followed by a long, arduous process, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens' agent was able to get him out of his contract with Parramatta, opening the door for a future in rugby once more.
"That time in high school, I was in year 10; 15-years-old and just eager to play any sport. The opportunity to play league for a team I'd grown up watching was a bit too good to turn down," he recalls.
"If I didn't (get out of the Parramatta contract) I would have moved to Parramatta in my last year of school which I wasn't too keen on. The more I think about it, I'm really happy I did (get out of it)."
Instead of moving to Sydney is his final year of high school in 2019, he completed it at Francis Douglas Memorial College – before moving to Mt Maunganui to take up an offer from the All Blacks Sevens, who had scouted him at the Red Bull Ignite 7 competition in 2018, the afternoon after his final exam.
"I remember I had just finished lunch in school," Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens recalls of finding out he would be joining the Sevens system. "I went into the class room and Clark Laidlaw, the [All Blacks Sevens] coach, was ringing me. He asked if I had five minutes – I think I was in maths at the time – and I was like 'yep, I'll just say I'm going to the toilet'.
"So, I was on the phone with him and he said there was an opportunity for me to join the Sevens team. I was trying to hold it at the time because we were still in fifth period at school, but I was so stoked and the family was happy.
"My last exam was in early December so I finished that and went straight up to the Mount because I couldn't wait to get there."
The opportunity with the Sevens came just after he had signed a two-year contract with Taranaki. While a finger injury and then Covid-19 prevented him from featuring for the All Blacks Sevens last year, he returned to Taranaki to focus on the 15-man game and was the star player in Taranaki's Mitre10 Cup campaign.
Now, the 19-year-old's sporting odyssey has seen him relocate to Auckland looking to make his name at the top level.
While his talent and impact for Taranaki was undeniable, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens is content to bide his time in a deep Blues backline. While playing on the wing for Taranaki, he's comfortable at fullback and will play wherever will get him on the field.
"I wouldn't back myself to get a starting jersey straight away. I'll bide my time and learn off the boys like Mark [Telea] and Stephen [Perofeta] who have been here for a couple of years," he says.
"When I get the opportunity to take the field, whenever that is, I'll take it with two hands, get involved where I can and make an impact.
"I'm just happy to get on the field. If it's as a utility, if it's running the waters, I'm a happy man."