Wallabies playmaker Will Genia has made a stunning U-turn by deciding to re-sign with the Queensland Reds two days after the Super Rugby team announced he would join Western Force next season.
The Reds said in a statement on Monday Genia had signed that morning until the end of 2015, scuppering the Perth-based Force's bid to recruit the 24-year-old scrumhalf at the eleventh hour.
On Saturday, the Reds had announced that Genia was leaving the team at the end of the season to play for Force after not being able to provide a competitive enough offer.
Genia said he had been set to leave but had a change of heart over the weekend.
“I always maintained a strong desire to stay in Queensland with the Reds, however, I also received offers from both here in Australia and from overseas, and I considered my options,” Genia said in the statement posted on the Reds' website (www.redsrugby.com.au).
Genia said he had even told the Reds' title-winning coach Ewen McKenzie after their game on Friday he was set to leave.
“Ewen asked me after the game on Friday whether I was going to be staying with the Reds and I told him I was going to join the Western Force at the end of the season,” he added.
“But when I considered my options over the weekend I realised it really didn't sit well with me and my heart was in Queensland and that's where I want to play my rugby.”
Genia scored the match-winning try in last year's final against the Canterbury Crusaders to seal the Reds' first title in the competition's professional era and has been a key player in the formerly struggling franchise's revival.
Local media reported Genia had been offered A$600,000 a year to play with Force, well above the A$400,000 Queensland had tabled.
Despite the team reporting his departure, negotiations re-opened on Sunday. Genia said the Reds' initial offer had not changed.
“I stayed because I want to stay,” he told reporters.
“I love the environment, I love the culture and I love where the club is heading and that's the reason I wanted to stay.
“The financial gain to move to Perth was quite significant but it's not about money. It's about where I'm happy and this is where I'd be happy.
“It was a scary thought to think I may not feel that way about playing for another club ... Singing the team song in the change room afterwards and thinking I would not have the opportunity next year was a scary thought.”
The Super Rugby champions have won five out of their nine games so far this season and remain six points behind the Canberra-based ACT Brumbies in the Australian conference.
The conference winners automatically qualify for the southern hemisphere provincial competition's postseason.
Force have won only two games this season and are all but out of the playoff race. – Reuters