Departing Queensland Reds veterans James Horwill and Will Genia say they have no regrets over their decisions to move overseas after this year’s World Cup.
But the Wallabies pair admit it is only sinking in now that Saturday night’s clash with the Chiefs will be the last time they wear a Reds jersey at Suncorp Stadium.
Horwill will play for English side Harlequins, while Genia will link up with Stade Francais, meaning the Reds are set to lose well over 200 Super Rugby games’ worth of experience in a fortnight’s time.
More than that, the Reds will lose two of their most recognisable faces and two genuine locker-room leaders who struggled to put into words what playing for Queensland means to them.
“For me, it’s only started to dawn on me in the last couple of weeks,” Horwill said.
“I purposely tried not to think about it too much, to not let it distract me.
“But it’s been hard, to think I’ve only got realistically two weeks of training left with the team before … that’s it.”
Genia said it feels “pretty special” to be farewelled alongside Horwill, who he has known since the age of 12 when he started boarding at Brisbane Boys College after moving from Port Moresby.
“I always looked up to the big fella,” he said.
“It’s been amazing playing alongside him and underneath him as a skipper.”
Genia spoke passionately about his pride in representing Queensland, saying pulling on Reds colours was “different” to playing for any other team.
“You can’t quite put your finger on (why),” he said.
“It was a message that was passed down to me when I first joined the group.
“But more so than that, you felt it. You felt that when you came into the place to train, to play, that it was different.
“Hopefully as a senior player, myself and James, we’ve done our part as far as feeding that through to the next generation of players coming on.”
But Horwill has urged his teammates not to get caught up in the hype and emotion of their sendoff on Saturday.
“I don’t want them to play well for us or for me,” he said.
“It’s not about that: it’s about performing well as a group so we can play well in front of our fans and finish the year off the way we know we can.”
Saturday night’s game could also be the last time Reds fans get a glimpse of Quade Cooper, who has been linked with a big-money move to French club powerhouse Toulon next season.
But if that’s the case, the enigmatic five-eighth is yet to tell his teammates.
“I don’t think even Quade knows what he’s doing. I’ve got no idea. He’ll probably tell us 10 minutes before he leaves,” Horwill joked.