Hayne exit gives Champion his chance
From the long-suffering Parramatta fans to the formerly-known squadron of Blatcheys Blues, and to the Kangaroos supporters still smarting from a Four Nations defeat, just about everybody lost on the day Eels favourite son Jarryd Hayne left to follow his dreams.
But the person who lost the least was forgotten man Beau Champion.
"I signed before Jarryd left but ultimately, that wouldn't have changed my decision to come here," Champion mused as he showed off the club's Auckland Nines kit on Tuesday.
"Of course, if you lose a player like that it's going to obviously be a loss. But we've got some really good players who can fill his position and I'm pretty sure they'll do it well next year."
Coach Brad Arthur has already publically thrown the fullback jumper to Will Hopoate, whose prodigious talents will now be scrutinised minute-by-minute as he attempts to fill the boots of the club's modern day icon.
But the real winner from the Hayne plane jet-setting across the Pacific is an astute Eels recruit desperate to reignite a career stalled by injuries.
After playing 70 games in his first six seasons with South Sydney between 2005 and 2010, Champion has since become somewhat of an invisible man, appearing on NRL fields just 35 times over the past four years in stints at Melbourne, Gold Coast, and then back at Redfern.
Last year alone, the Rabbitohs junior had just two outings for the 2014 premiers in a campaign thwarted by a wrist problem.
"I just had a couple of major injuries, moreso than my body being sore or anything like that. And I've gotten over the wrist injury now. I'm just looking to push forward and try and have as good a pre-season as I can so it puts me in a good position to play as good football as I can next season," he said.
But now the opportunity is there for the 27-year-old to re-establish himself in first grade, competing against fellow buy Brad Takairangi and heralded youngster John Folau for the right centre spot.
While there were other destinations Champion said were on the table, the chance to play for a rising squad unafraid to entertain the masses suited his classy game to a tee.
"I just found that this club was more a club on the rise. They had some really good young players, they were an exciting team, they threw the ball around," he said.
"When I watched them play last year, I thought they were really entertaining, and I thought it'd be a place where I'd be happiest with my football. I wouldn't say it's a make or break year, but I came here to play first grade.
"I saw this as an opportunity for me to play first grade if I was willing to put my head down and work really hard. I felt very confident that if I got over my injuries and if I got back good physically, that I'd be able to contribute to this team and play a big part. That's my ultimate goal."