Last week was an amazingly busy week with the transfer deadline set at 5pm Friday and boy did it occupy my time.
I had a trip to Hungary planned for Wednesday lunchtime heading south, so really wanted to get everything in place before that which was in itself difficult as my work commitments were higher due to the shortened week.
We had been working the previous week on our last two targets having got Mitch Brown done awaiting his VISA which would then enable his release from Cronulla.
They were Matty Dawson and Danny Tickle. We were aware we needed to strengthen our back line to give us our best chance and we also felt we needed to try and secure another quality middle. During this process I received a call from Fui telling me that Jarryd Hayne had been speaking to him and there may be an interest in him coming over to play in the Middle 8s to join his mates Reni and Willie alongside Fui.
At first I thought that it was a crazy idea as the man has been playing American football so why would he want to come to little old Leigh and surely the money would be ridiculous and impossible under the cap.
That phone call was followed by one from Reni who told me similar and that Parramatta had offered him 250k Australian, but he didn’t fancy that at this stage.
I sat back that night and thought, you know what you can’t take it with you, and I can afford the English equivalent of what had been offered to him.
I then started to really think about it and the focus it would bring to Leigh the increased gates fans from other clubs coming to watch him play, and then off course the pure skill.
We also at that stage had Willie struggling again badly with his back and we were even more nervous that he may not be able to figure at all.
I spoke to Jukesy about it and he was like are you actually serious you would do that? The following morning I again spoke to both Fui and Reni who had both had long chats with Jarryd and he had said he was going to speak to his manager Wayne Beavis.
Paul Anderson sent me Jarryd’s email address so I put an email together to him outlining our ambitions and the concept of the 8s, Stating that I wasn’t fazed by the figures involved in bringing him.
Prior to doing this I ensured with the RFL that he would be successful in meeting the criteria which he was due to his World Cup appearances in 2013.
I sent the email and got an immediate reply from Jarryd stating he was with his manager and would I call straight away to discuss.
Needless to say I made the call immediately and it soon became apparent that there was mileage in this and it could be made to work.
Each night and morning I had contact with Wayne and I also went hard at work with the RFL and Samantha Allen who was extremely helpful to me explaining all the various issues and taking me through the live salary cap and what we could have available going to the maximum Super League cap.
I provided all the necessary documents for proof of funding to go to the cap and she really helped me work out what we would have available with Tickle, Dawson and Brown in if we were to nail them down as we anticipated.
All the paperwork was done and sent over to me and on Tuesday night and I sent over the contract from my office that effectively matched the offer he had from Paramata.
It was on Jarryd meeting his manager and when I woke up in the morning everything should be good to go.
I poured a large brandy as I had confirmation and the contract in the bag for Danny Tickle and was pretty confident on the Matty Dawson front.
I needed the brandy to make me sleep it was very exciting times.
Upon waking there was not text and no email. I waited in anticipation as it was only 8am.
Whilst driving to the office the call came on my screen - it was Wayne Beavers.
I immediately answered and had the usual opening chat. I was buzzing inside thinking that was it. “Mate it’s bad news I’m afraid. I met with Jarryd and had everything printed off and filled in, good to go but unfortunately he can’t make the dates due to commitments.
“He would only make four games and that wasn’t something he wanted to do.”
I was gutted but obviously understanding of the situation. In all of it, until sending the final offer over with all the details, nobody had ever outlined the actual dates. We had only ever talked of the deadline for signing.
However if we had then I would never have come close to signing one of the best players in the world and on the positive side we got tremendous publicity again for our club.
I downed the phone only to then receive a text from Mike Rush at Saints to say they weren’t going to release Matty until the end of the season.
I had three hours before heading to Hungary and all of a sudden I was shattered and my options had gone.
We desperately needed to add Matty Dawson but he was a Saints player and it was out of my hands. My driver collected me and we set off to Bedford. My mind was running over time we were running out of time. I decided to make a last ditch attempt to tempt Saints to let Matty go and put in a bid for him.
Now Mike Rush is known for taking time to get back to you so I wasn’t holding my breath on sorting it out before boarding the plane.
To my surprise Rushy was back to me and was a legend in getting everything through in time for us. That was it we were good to go as they say.
We missed out on the big one but in the end we have a team that I believe is a Super League standard and that is as much as I can do. Its now time to sit back and enjoy.
Where Jarryd will end up, only time will tell, but I wish him well in whatever he does and thank him for taking the time to seriously consider coming to our fantastic club!
So there it is. After a first round defeat we managed to complete the remainder of the season unbeaten in 22 rounds and for a third consecutive season we remain unbeaten in the league at home.
That is a fantastic achievement by Jukesy and the team and they must be very proud of what they achieved.
There is a lot of speculation surrounding who should get coach of the year and perhaps more than any other year there is a real competition for places as I believe you could genuinely give it to any of the top four teams.
Andrew Henderson has done a fantastic job in his first full year in charge, where he has been able to stamp his own authority on things. Coming from outside the four to finish second is a fantastic effort from him.
John Sharp has also steered his team from outside the four with a fantastic run of form at the end, winning what he billed as a quarter-final, semi-final and final, with the emphatic win over Bradford to secure a place in the 8s and the manner in which they did that to nil.
I had predicted in last week’s column that I thought Featherstone would have the edge but I don’t think anyone expected such a complete performance and that is a mark of his leadership.
Then there is John Kear, who has achieved so much in the game and already, has his return to Super League secured.
Perhaps it would be quite fitting for him to receive the honour as they have had a remarkable season starting with that thrilling victory over us in the opening round which undoubtedly set them on their way.
I recall stating at the time the togetherness they showed and how much that victory meant to them with their celebrations, and that is the mark of a coach that has built a team.
Then there is my coach Neil Jukes, who took the helm of a damaged ship in turbulent waters and steered it through a storm of bullets and attacks aimed at him with what one could almost call a mutiny within.
For me what he has achieved is the biggest achievement of them all.
I have watched closely him deal with weekly pantomimes and make tough decisions that have needed strong man management.
He has made decisions that weren’t popular but everything he has done he has done with the sole vision of what is best for the team and its opportunity to achieve its goals.
To have won every round after the first one and to have shaped a solid side, coming into the main part of the season in good form of the back of some really strong performances, with a style of play that dominates sides, is in my opinion worthy of the honour to a man who has never previously been a head coach and has only ever worked under one coach.
However as I stated earlier, you couldn’t argue with any of the aforementioned receiving the reward. Do I think Neil will get it? No.
I don’t I think that because other coaches who vote won’t see the inside of what I see.
They won’t be able to appreciate what he has achieved and many will just look at the quality squad he has at his disposal and put it largely down to that.
In the end I think the accolade will go to John Kear and I think that will be a fitting end to his time in the Championship.
For us, we celebrated our good performance over Dewsbury and our claiming of our first clean sheet along with the crowning of champions for the third consecutive season.
The lads have been given a few days off to enjoy a well-deserved break before we regroup on Friday and start what we are billing as a new season with our main objective achieving Super League status.
Whilst they are resting and recharging themselves physically and mentally, the coaching, the conditioning team and I are hard at work preparing for that.
And let’s just say at this point in time there will be a few surprises for the lads when they return as we do everything we can to prepare for their focus.
It is going to be a very tough but exciting next couple of months and having the benefit of knowing the fixtures that are currently confidential I believe we have a far better chance than last year, based on how they pan out and the fact that we have better personnel to make that happen both on and off the field.
Will we achieve it?
Time will tell but rest assured we won’t stop trying until we do!