Cape Town - Promising Reds utility back Izaia Perese has turned his back on the game and reportedly made a stunning defection to rugby league.
Perese has not been sighted at Ballymore since pre-season kicked off a fortnight ago and the Reds confirmed on Monday that he they released the 21-year-old from his Super Rugby contract to pursue opportunities in another sport.
“We have thought long and hard about this, as releasing players from their contractual commitments isn’t something we take lightly,” said Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) interim CEO David Hanham.
“Izaia was released on the basis of us identifying a quality replacement and this has certainly been achieved. We wish Izaia all the best for his future.”
Back-to-back knee injuries limited Perese’s impact in 2018 to just five Super Rugby games for the Reds.
A product of the Queensland pathway, Perese made his Super Rugby debut in 2017 and went on to play 17 matches and score four tries for the Reds.
The club did not force Perese to play in Australia's National Rugby Championship as he took time away from the game for personal reasons and subsequently did not push him to report at pre-season either.
Unfortunately even the lure of a Wallabies debut was not enough to keep Perese in the 15-man game.
Since suffering a partial ACL tear at the start of the year which plagued his 2018 season he has not been happy and he sought a return to the code he first starred in as a junior in the months which followed.
It's understood he will spend the upcoming season playing for the Brisbane Broncos affiliated Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup and will also help run a franchise in Strathpine - north of Brisbane - he purchased early last year.
Perese is likely to win a full-time deal with the Broncos.
His defection is a cruel blow for both the Reds and the Wallabies as in 2017 Perese played like a world class attacking talent.
His sharp acceleration, tackle busting ability and defensive tenacity were all exceptional traits and they have been lost to rugby for good.
Perese exit is a massive setback for Australia's talent retention campaign. Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika said on a number of occasions that Perese is as a player that could form part of his World Cup plans and the player was picked to tour with the Wallabies in a training capacity during the 2017 Rugby Championship.