Chiefs hooker Hika Elliot is in shock after being dumped by the union he says he had "given my life to" since he left Hastings Boys High School.
The 26-year-old was struggling last night to get his head around his immediate future after the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union told him he would not be offered a NPC contract this season.
"For myself and my family it's hugely disappointing. It's a province I've pretty much given my life to over the past eight or nine seasons," he told The Dominion Post. "It's quite an emotional topic mate, to talk about leaving the province I've played for since I left school.
"I'm just trying to digest this huge shock. It's going to take me a few days to get my mind around things, that I'll be moving on . . . me and my agent are trying to come up with a plan."
The three-test All Black said that could include looking at overseas options though his preference was to stay in New Zealand.
"The problem I face is Hawke's Bay left this so late in the piece to say they weren't going to contract me that lot of teams have already filled their rosters. It'll be tough to find someone with the wedge to fit me on their books.
"I've got a young family so I'm in the situation where I'll have to think about that [overseas] and if its best for me and my family to go then its something I'll have to look at. Right now I don't even want to shut the door on playing for the Bay again."
Hawke's Bay Rugby Union chief executive Mike Bishop said the decision had been made because the province did not think it would get value for money in signing a "likely" All Black.
"It's about getting dollar value from the minutes you are likely to get out of them, simple as that. It's not a decision we came to lightly. But it was a risk for us to sign him if he makes the All Blacks."
That appears to be a decent sized "if" with Elliot probably in the mix, but no certainty with Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore and Dane Coles the incumbent trio.
Regardless, Hawke's Bay would be thinking hard about signing top Super Rugby players and All Blacks in future for a number of reasons, Bishop said.
That included there being little break between Super Rugby and the NPC, meaning well-paid players arrived mentally and physically exhausted.
Hawke's Bay felt a better investment was in Hurricanes backup Ash Dixon and youngster Jesse MacDonald.
The Magpies had a poor 2012, winning only three of 10 matches.
But Elliot said he was struggling to understand the union's explanations and was disappointed how negotiations had been handled.
"From last year's review they asked me to go away and work on a few things. I‘d like to think over the last six or seven weeks with the Chiefs I've done that.
"I'm in the best shape and the fittest I've ever been at this level. I thought I still had a lot to offer Hawke's Bay at ITM Cup level.
"The All Blacks can't be the issue. There's a new agreement with the provinces that they'll be reimbursed for a lot of that money they were missing out on . . . So that's what they're [Hawke's Bay] saying, but I really don't know."
Bishop denied there were any off-field issues and Elliot believed he'd had a good relationship with new coach Craig Philpott.
"I thought we got along really well, but it looks like we didn't get along well enough to hold my spot."
- The Dominion Post
What did you make of this year's ITM Cup?