Less than six months ago, the Wallabies appeared to have discovered in Marika Koroibete the most important of Test assets - a penetrative, unpredictable, match-changing winger.
Several of Koroibete's Test performances in 2017 were of the highest standard, prompting opposing teams, even the All Blacks, to ponder: "How are we going to stop him?"
So, it was uncomfortable seeing a dejected and somewhat lost Koroibete being replaced after 54 minutes of a match where the Hurricanes rudely brought the Melbourne Rebels back to the real world with a 50-19 slap across the chops. Adding to the gloom was that Koroibete's walk-off coincided with the television commentators reeling out the most damning of match statistics- nil runs, nil metres.
In other words, nil effect. Mighty. Fallen. You know the rest.
The statistics weren't quite that bad. Koroibete did actually have one run. But if you blinked you would have missed it. In the 46th minute Rebels scrumhalf Will Genia, close to the ruck, threw a tight inside pass to a charging Koroibete, who after making one step spilt the ball. That was it. Half-a-metre. One run.
Was Koroibete that bad? Not exactly. Even though Koroibete's detractors argue he should go looking for more work, the Rebels have several times this season wasted his talents. They are not exactly treating him as their prime attack weapon. He has good reason to be disillusioned -- which is not encouraging with the Wallabies Test series against Ireland looming.
In the Waratahs-Rebels match a few weeks ago, Koroibete was limited to just four runs where he made 27 metres. In contrast, Australia's current inform winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, enjoying the benefits that come with losing more than 12kgs in the offseason, was given every chance when coming off the Waratahs bench, with six runs, 91 metres gained, four clean breaks and two tries. Then against the Brumbies last weekend, the Waratahs used the bustling and buoyant Naiyaravoro whenever they could, and with it another two tries from ten runs and 110 metres gained. The Waratahs are utilising their not so long ago neglected beast far more astutely.
Koroibete's frustration in repeatedly being ignored by those inside him was there for all to see as the Hurricanes easily overhauled the Rebels. Koroibete, often with plenty of space in front of him, was repeatedly sighted frantically waving for the ball. Most times, he was ignored.
As their No. 10 Jack Debreczeni floats in and out of the play, and is often hidden away in defence, the Rebels repeatedly rely on bash-up rather than balletic football. No wonder by half-time their No. 8 Amanaki Mafi was looking as if he had just run an ultramarathon, and had to be replaced following 15 take-the-ball-up-as-crazily-as-you-can runs.
The Rebels other over-riding option is kicking away possession, with Genia often deciding the only way to rebound pressure is to either boot it long or in between the defence and the fullback. One Genia crossfield kick saw Koroibete and fellow winger Tom English attempt a loop-around move, but that was easily snuffed by the Hurricanes.
So constant was the bash-up barging and midfield kicking that Rebels outside centre Reece Hodge did not touch the ball in attack until the 51st minute.
Occasionally the Rebels do remember Koroibete is there. One of their lineout moves revolve around him, and it almost came off in the 23rd minute. It involved Mafi heading off from the back of the lineout about 45 metres out towards centre-field, wait for the pass from Genia, and then flick it back inside to a charging Koroibete. They chose the moment well, as in front of Koroibete was nothing, with numerous Hurricanes forwards defenders still caught up at the lineout.
However the timing was slightly off, with Mafi's pass going behind Koroibete. If that had worked, a try was possible, as Koroibete, with a considerable head-start, would have been difficult to chase down.
Then in the second half, Debreczeni threw a long floating pass to Koroibete, who again was away. This time it was called back because the pass was forward. Shortly after Koroibete was a spectator.
Defensively, Koroibete has had better days. The first Ben Lam try came when he snuck around Koroibete to score in the corner. That wasn't Koroibete's fault, but he could have made a better go of chasing Lam down before he scored his second try. Koroibete, one of the more pugnacious and powerful defensive wingers going around, lunged at him too early, and missed. Whether he is still troubled by a knee injury is uncertain.
Then again, he is not the only Rebels defender who is falling away under pressure. One cannot expect the Rebels to stay on top of the Australian conference for too long when the Waratahs and Hurricanes were able to score 13 tries against them. The Rebels defensive alignment is easily fragmented, forcing those out wide to constantly flounder countering glaring overlaps. And with their captain Adam Coleman struggling to get out of first gear this year, the Rebels are well short of being a complete package or tournament threat.
Having the bye this week could not have come at a better time for the Rebels and their supposed key attacking force - Koroibete. It's thinking cap time.