Karmichael Hunt has played his last game for the Reds as the Waratahs firm as a potential home for the banished cross-code star.
Discussions between the Reds and Waratahs regarding Hunt's services in 2019 have begun and RUGBY.com.au can reveal the 32-year-old has not taken part in Queensland's preseason preparations for the past week.
Brad Thorn's squad are today headed to the Sunshine Coast for a three day camp and Hunt is not expected to be on the bus north, either.
He remains, officially, a member of Queensland's Super Rugby squad but will not be at the club come the start of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
It's understood neither Thorn nor the Reds have changed their train of thought on his exile and will not stand in his way should the talks with the Waratahs come to fruition.
One source told RUGBY.com.au the wheels are now in motion to bring Hunt south and that the main sticking point will be how much of his salary will still be paid by the Reds.
The club entered similar negotiations with the Rebels ahead of Quade Cooper's move to Melbourne and did the same when James Slipper found a suitor in the Brumbies.
The trio are all on split QRU-Rugby Australia contracts and the Reds are understood to still be paying some part of their salaries.
The same concept will apply with Hunt, who would prove an invaluable addition to a Waratahs squad lacking quality depth in key spine positions.
Tahs coach Daryl Gibson has highlighted his desire to address that lack of depth and given he can play No. 12, 13 and 15, Hunt would be the ideal player to fill the void and allow Wallabies stars Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale to stay fresh.
"One of the review findings of our own season back in August was we played our best players too much. Of all the Super franchises we used the least number of players," Gibson said.
"We used 34 players and the Crusaders used 44. So that shows us straight away as a strategy we need to increase the depth of our squad and trust our players can do the job.
"That's why we are in a situation where Bernard and KB have extremely high minutes. We know we have to manage them better this year.
"It’s trying to get the best out of them and manage them correctly and that's probably been our biggest learning, in how we do that really well."
When approached for comment on the matter, a Waratahs spokeswoman offered this response.
"If NSWRU were to consider it we’d need to go through an extensive review process," the spokeswoman said.
While firm favourites to secure his services the Waratahs are not Hunt's only remaining option in Australia.
The Brumbies have categorically ruled out any interest in his services but the door at the Rebels remains open, if ever so slightly.
One source said the club had not been approached by either the Reds or Rugby Australia and while Hunt linking up with good mate Cooper once again remains "unlikely" if the call was made, Melbourne would pick up.
There is little - if any - wiggle room in Melbourne's salary cap but the release of Sefa Naivalu has kept the door for a potential push for Hunt ajar.