IT was 14.19 on September 7 and I was heading south to a site meeting on the Isle of Wight.
One thing about me is I don’t answer my phone to numbers I don’t have stored in my phone.
I had three consecutive calls from the same number and it is always frustrating wondering who they are when they don’t leave a message.
Perhaps it is more frustrating to the caller that they don’t get an answer.
Fortunately on this occasion I received a text from the same number: “Derek it’s Rangi Chase I want to talk to you.”
At 14.20 I was talking with the man so he had certainly got my attention.
I was aware from media reports that Rangi was free to move on and I had spoken briefly to his agent. I had also spoken with Marwan Kouokash about him and the possibility of arranging a deal for Salford to release him to Leigh, but Marwan was taking a different route in the best interests of his business.
I was aware Castleford were interested from
Marwan and Rangi’s agent and thought that in the absence of the deal going through Salford we would stand little chance as Rangi would decide his future club.
The chat was really easy with Rangi. We instantly hit it off and the call softened my journey. It was gone 15.10 when the call finished and Rangi seemed really keen on what we were about and how we look after our players.
He liked our style of play had been to the facility with Salford and heard good things from Gaz Hock about me, Paul Rowley and the club as a whole.
At this time we had just got back to winning ways, putting 50 on Sheffield and had Halifax up next.
We were still in with a shout for the Million Pound Game and therefore a shot at Super League so talking to Rangi was natural – he was a player that would be a great addition to a Super League club.
The problem was we weren’t one and there were no guarantees we would be. From a financial point of view I was reasonably comfortable that we would finish sixth and get the additional funding. That money would cover the new signings if I maintained the financial input I had that year which I was prepared to do if we didn’t get into Super League.
The most important aspect is that a player fits into Paul Rowley’s plans so we met up and showed Rangi around the place before having a good chat in Paul’s office.
That was really exciting, listening to the various options and scenarios. It was immediately evident to me that Rangi would be a great addition and Rolls was 100 per cent behind signing him.
It was kind of surreal having him in there but was testament to where we had come to as a club and the environment we had created.
We had an agreement in principal and Rangi’s agent tried to tie it up with a deal with Salford but they were in a position of dealing with a disciplinary so weren’t in a position to compromise. So everything sat left in abeyance.
Castleford pushed for a decision and set a deadline. Rangi had made his decision that he wanted to be at Leigh but I was nervous about the commitment if we didn’t get to Super league.
At this point I was engaging in texts and calls with Rangi more than the Missus.
I didn’t want to pass this special chance up so I had a lengthy chat on the basis that if the deal stuck even if we were in the Championship I would honour it if he did.
We agreed in principal and his agent let the Castleford deadline pass. I had weighed things up and really felt that even if we didn’t make the Million Pound Game we would finish sixth so drew some comfort from that.
I was also talking to Reni Maituai and Harrison Harrison at this time so it was all very busy.
There was also the uncertainty surrounding what would happen with Rangi at Salford so everything was still up in the air and far from set in stone.
Then a spanner got thrown in the works. Fax did a number on us and we looked well beat – outenthused, outmuscled and I got nervous.
I remember saying to Rolls in the dugout that new signings were going on ice. I spoke to Rangi and he was asking “what does this result mean?”. I assured him that we could still make the big one by beating Bradford but it didn’t hinge on that.
Bradford turned us over and Rangi had been at the game and left before I met him. He had texted that he had left early and was gutted. I assured him I could still sign him and he questioned how.
He texted me the following day asking did I still want to honour a deal as he understood if not because his agent had interest from New Zealand.
I still felt we would get sixth and was not wanting to pass up an opportunity to sign the magic man. We all met up - me, Rolls, Rangi, Harrison Harrison and Cory Paterson (Reni couldn’t make it) and we ate lunch at Worsley Old Hall.
It was a good meeting and while Cory was signed, Harrison and Rangi still had details to be finalised but everything was in place.
Then came the Saturday where Fax beat Bradford and Sheffield beat Wakefield and left us needing to go and beat Widnes by a big margin!
I already knew I was going to have a £337,000 hangover but I can never give in and always believe there is a chance!
I didn’t sleep well that night, my mind was unsettled. I could withdraw from the Rangi deal - he had interest anyway and Harrison was giving up a good contract to come to us and could stay put. So I had options to minimise my exposure.
I felt uneasy far from certain. I had put 300k in during the season taking me to 500k in two years and I now knew that I would need to go that 300k again and more to cover Cory and Reni minus what had left so to add Rangi and Harrison would mean me adding the 337k to the 300k already needed. That was a big decision for me.
I pondered it throughout the day after speaking to the team at the final training session. I wanted to see that togetherness from earlier in the season at Widnes, that belief.
I saw it in the first 20 minutes then it went away as Gaz Hock seemed to be being singled out and decisions didn’t go our way.
The togetherness I did see was from our army of Leigh fans who stayed clapping our boys despite having conceded 50. I was with the rest of our directors, Steve, Mike, Michael and Allan.
I was gutted. We were disappointed but a sense of relief came over me as I realised it was over.
Then I saw and heard the Leigh fans chanting “Championies Championes” and I turned to Allan and the rest and said, ‘**** this we are doing it!’
Other teams don’t decide what we do and don’t do. They are the people that matter – our fans stood loyal and proud!
How can I withdraw from giving them the most amazing opportunity next year?
I rang Harrison and Rangi and told them we were nailed on and I was going to make it known in the media. They were both happy with the news and up for the challenge. I put down my phone and my driver turned up the radio. On BBC Radio Manchester and heard my good friend Jack Dearden.
I immediately called to quell the onslaught of rival fans dishing it out to the mighty Leigh fans. I quietened them down with the announcement of Rangi, Cory Reni and Harrison and things went wild.
There it was – I had committed myself. I needed to do that as those that know me know I won’t go back on my word! I had a few drinks that night partly a commiseration and relief and partly a celebration.
I woke up to reality the following morning when Michael Norris, our chairman, put in the usual request for 35k to clear the wages.
Even so I was sure that this was going to be right. Salford dismissed Rangi and as seen by the pictures on October 12 at 9.59 am I signed Rangi Chase to Leigh Centurions. All contracts are subject to the RFL registering them so it was kept in a private draw offering us both security whilst the issue of the cap was addressed.
I had my man. The magic man - the former Man of Steel still only 29 in his pomp. A man motivated by what we are aiming for at Leigh. A man who aspires to get back loving what he dreamt of doing.
A man who will captivate the people of Leigh and inspire more to follow.
Rangi went off for a much needed break with his family and everything fell in place with the foresight of the RFL and other Championship clubs agreeing to a change in the cap.
I got ahead of myself going to pick Rangi up a day early from the airport which is a story in itself but I got my man in the end on time.
The fantastic coverage live on Sky and later on the BBC shows that my strategy was right and that this is a great signing for Leigh.
Our fans deserve it they are the reason behind it and I say to every one of them at Widnes on that day: Be proud because it was your actions that signed Rangi Chase.