Ben Barba almost made a sensational return to rugby league with Leigh Centurions last year.
In a stunning revelation, Centurions owner Derek Beaumont confirmed he had agreed a deal to bring the former Man of Steel winner to Leigh Sports Village ahead of their Championship promotion push at the end of the year.
The club had agreed personal terms with the former St Helens ace, who was without a club after being sacked by North Queensland Cowboys at the start of the season after an alleged incident with his partner in a casino.
But just as it appeared Barba was set for a return, he pulled out of the deal.
“It’s exactly the same situation as Jarryd Hayne,” Beaumont told TotalRL.
“It was done as far as agents go and stuff. There was some RFL approval needed because of the potential suspension that could have been global. But I was in contact with them on that at the time.
“Financially, the deal was done, everything was happening and I thought we’d got him.
“But then at the 11th hour the agent got back and said he didn’t think he could do it justice in terms of being fit enough at that time of the year.
“It’s a shame he would have been great for us.”
In another extraordinary admission, Beaumont also hinted that he had been in contact with Salford Red Devils regarding a swoop for Jackson Hastings.
“A bigger plan we had – again, nothing was set in stone with Salford but their overachievement scuppered my plans in terms of some of their players who were moving on at the end of the year that were on big money.
“It would have been something if they were out of the play-offs but safe from relegation, the player was leaving anyway so it would have saved them some money which is helpful to any club, yet alone Salford, and used it more for this year.
“It was something that would have been explored, but in the end everything happens for a reason.”
Leigh ultimately were knocked out of the play-offs in the first week as they went down to Featherstone, who went on to reach the Championship Grand Final to Toronto.
But with the Wolfpack out of the way, Beaumont is hopeful that will open a path for the Centurions to reach the top flight next year.
“Championship is going to be a great competition. It’s vital we get a good start, I can’t go through what we did that year, I haven’t got the nerve for that. We start off there on Friday night with Dewsbury on their small pitch, they play hard. The nerves are tingling just talk about it, but I’m determined this year just to enjoy it.”