Brumbies flyhalf Christian Lealiifano is going to miss seeing his “little brother” Matt Toomua at the ACT franchise every day in 2017.
Toomua came to the Brumbies straight out of Brisbane State High School and has since forged a life in Canberra, buying several cafes, as well as working his way into the Wallabies fold.
Friday night’s quarter-final loss against the Highlanders was likely the last game Lealiifano and Toomua would play together at the Brumbies, with Toomua going to Premiership side Leicester at the end of the year.
“For me that one's a personal touch,” Lealiifano said.
“I've seen him grow up from a young 16,17-year-old out here and seen him as a little brother.
“To see his development throughout the years has been amazing, more so as a person (than anything else).
“He's grown into an incredible young man and that one's going to be hard.
“You hate to see one of your best mates move on but I'm sure I'm going to see him around sometime soon and definitely stay in touch because he's someone I'm really, really close to.”
Through all that change, though, Lealiifano said one thing about Toomua hadn’t changed.
“For me it's his passion for what he does, it's his passion for anything - for his group of friends, his brothers, his family,” he said.
“To me that's truly humbling to know that kid’s grown up and never [forgotten] where he's come from and just stayed real the whole time.
“He's grown but he's never changed from the Pup that I knew since he moved down.”
The Brumbies will miss three pillars of their organisation next year with Stephen Moore (Queensland), David Pocock (sabbatical) and Toomua all leaving but Lealiifano said the looming departures were yet to really sink in.
“I guess we've got the next few weeks to enjoy the time with them but the times we've had are the ones you'll never forget,” he said.
“The memories you build with teammates and the special time you have here as a family down here in Canberra and I'm super proud and just wish them all the best with the new journey.
“Now it's just living in the moment and enjoying whatever time we have left with them and then sending them off on a good note.”