The door back to Australian rugby has been slammed shut on Queensland Reds trio Izack Rodda, Isaac Lucas and Harry Hockings after Rugby Australia and the Reds terminated their contracts on Saturday morning.
Speaking to media following the announcement, Rugby Australia interim CEO Rob Clarke said the governing body would not be welcoming the players back to Australian rugby in the foreseeable future.
"We've formed the view that they've made their decision and if they wish to go overseas, then that's their decision," Clarke told media. "There's no avenue open to them in Australia at this time.
"We all have to face the consequences of our decisions in life - I'm not going to speak on behalf of those players, they can speak themselves.
"My job is to protect the game and Jonno's [director of rugby Scott Johnson] job is to protect the game and to build a foundation for the future and that's what all our energy right this moment is going towards."
The Reds stood down the trio without pay on Monday when they refused to accept Rugby Australia's proposed 60 percent wage cut. On Friday, their manager Anthony Picone released a statement arguing the QRU had no legal basis to stand down the trio and said the organisation had ample opportunity to withdraw the notices but "failed to do so".
Clarke stated the decision to not pursue legal action was deemed the "most appropriate course of action".
"We possibly could have [taken legal action], but on balance we thought this was the most prudent course of action as to release these players given their stated intentions, and we believe taking everything into account, that was the appropriate course of action," he said.
"Going to court is always the last resort and it's a brutal ending to any conflict, so you would always like to mediate and conciliate along the way to get an outcome that suits both parties, in case we haven't been able to. We're very disappointed because those players were part of how we saw the future, but they have they rights and they're entitled to do what they've done."
The three were the only players to refuse to agree to the pay cut with a further 189 of RA's contracted players signing the deal, alongside 150 Australian rugby staff members.
It's understood the players received several messages of support from teammates and former players. But Clarke stated he wasn't worried the incident would set a precedent, and was quick to warn current players against pursuing a similar avenue of terminating contracts like the Reds trio.
"I'm not [worried]," Clarke told media. "We haven't had any indication from RUPA or any other players that they are looking beyond our shores.
"I fully understand the challenges people are going through, it's no different to the staff, having to make the decisions we have has been felt heavily by everybody involved.
"I think it's prudent to note, other rugby economies are suffering as much as we are, and I expect that the challenges that they have are exactly the same and therefore they're taking similar actions. We live in a global economy in the rugby world and we are just part of it. For any players thinking this is a ticket to a golden pot, I think [they] will be sorely disappointed."
It is understood the trio is seeking contracts in Japan for the 2021 season with the 2020 season cancelled due to COVID-19, however, Clarke could not confirm if they players had received any interest.
Clarke and Johnson were clearly frustrated with the trio and the course of action they had taken. Lucas and Rodda had only recently re-signed with Rugby Australia and the Queensland Reds on long-term deals with the pair alongside Hockings expected to play big roles for the Wallabies in the future.
"It needs to be clear that the player pays their representative, so it's the player that makes the decisions, they informed us who we should speak to," Johnson said.
"It's disappointing from a rugby front, but I can't speak on behalf of the players or their agent.
"I'm not here to speak on the part of Izack, you're right in the fact that he's just re-signed and so has Isaac Lucas, they've both signed recently for extended periods.
"It is confusing to us that they appeared happy enough to sign for an extended period, we were really pleased to have them, it solidified our programs, we really liked them as players, they were part of the future."
As to when the trio may be welcomed back into Australian rugby, Clarke only had this to say: "We're not looking that far ahead."