IN the end, John Barilaro blinked first.
A potentially explosive showdown between the NSW Nationals and Liberals - one that could have threatened the future of the Coalition Government, no less - ended in a fizzer on Friday morning when Mr Barilaro backed down from his threat to take his party's MPs to the cross bench in protest over the government's so-called "Koala SEPP".
A day earlier Mr Barilaro was painting the planning document as an attack on the livelihoods of NSW farmers when, in reality, it only ever seemed to apply to a very small number and then in only very specific circumstances (that is, wanting to clear land for development).
It seems an innocuous piece of legislation to result in such a public show of brinkmanship between the Coalition partners but Mr Barilaro has been railing for some time against what he perceives to be the government's "city centric" focus.
He had been spoiling for a fight and if it wasn't the koala legislation that brought it to a head then it would have been something else.
Mr Barilaro had also previously indicated he had no plans to seek re-election in 2023 and would instead step down as leader of the NSW Nationals about half-way through the current term.
We're rapidly approaching the point so it must be asked if this salvo was always intended to be his last? And, if so, can Bathurst MP Paul Toole - currently the Nationals' deputy leader and someone who, from the outside at least, appears to have a very good relationship with the premier - become the party's leader sooner rather than later?
Mr Toole says Mr Barilaro still has his support but, as Mr Barilaro himself said this week, "even an hour is a long time in politics".
And every sporting coach knows what it means to hear they have the "full backing of the board". Watch this space.
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