The Western Force have swept in to sign playmaker Hamish Stewart on a two-year deal and the Queensland Reds insist they aren’t angry about it.
The Reds were left fuming last month when the Melbourne Rebels made a play for Stewart.
Queensland claimed they had sealed a binding agreement with Stewart to keep him at the Reds for 2023, and they asked Rugby Australia to investigate the Rebels’ bid to sign him.
Melbourne were keen to secure the 24-year-old following the departure of Matt Toomua, but the Force announced on Friday that they have signed Stewart for the next two Super Rugby Pacific seasons.
Stewart’s arrival is an important boost for the Force, who were dealt a huge blow last week when five-eighth Reesjan Pasitoa suffered a serious knee injury that will keep him out for most of next season.
The Reds released a statement on Friday saying Stewart’s departure was actually a good result for both clubs.
“We have good depth at centre and some salary cap pressure with a large contingent of national players, so this is a good result for all parties,” the Reds said.
“The Western Force made the request through the appropriate channels. They had a need with some injuries and departing inside backs.”
New Western Force coach Simon Cron, who was Stewart’s coach at the Australian Under 20s side, was keen to reunite with his former protege
“We had a few conversations over the last week, around Reesjan’s injury and what he wants to achieve in his career,” Cron told AAP.
“Hamish knows what he’ll get with me. I’m pretty black and white.
“He wants to be the best player he can be. My job is to make him the best player he can be, and get him back into that Wallabies squad.”
Stewart, who can also play at inside centre or fullback, hopes he can help propel the Force into the finals.
“Obviously, we want to go to finals so hopefully we get that finals berth and go all the way through to win,” Stewart said.
“I’m really looking forward to it and experiencing the Sea of Blue. The comradery of the players with the crowd always adds atmosphere.
“It will be great to reconnect with some of the guys I used to play with at the Reds too. I haven’t played with them for a couple of years, so it will be good to relight the candle and put our best foot forward.”