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Inside story on how Tedesco nearly signed with Bulldogs

All the lights were off. It was almost 10pm at Belmore Sportsground in March last year.

Des Hasler had gone home for the night, not a player or staff member in sight.

Then James Tedesco and Aaron Woods, who will square off against each other for their respective new clubs on Friday night, drove into the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs' headquarters.

Former chairman Ray Dib was waiting to give them and their manager Isaac Moses a secret tour of the club's facilities. Even the then chief executive, Raelene Castle, was unaware. The coach was unaware.

They walked into the cold and dark Belmore dressing rooms, where only a few hours earlier the Bulldogs players had finished for the day.

There were two Bulldogs jerseys hanging from the ceiling.

One with "Woods" on the back. The other, "Tedesco".

Mitchell Moses wasn't there that night, but the intention was that in the coming weeks, all three would sign on the dotted line for the Bulldogs. 

Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco.
Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco. ©Gregg Porteous / NRL Photos

"I love playing with Mitch," Tedesco told

"He's one of my best mates. I wanted to play footy with him."

So after their confidential meeting in the eerie silence of a vacant Belmore Sportsground, the chairman organised for Tedesco and Woods to meet Hasler.

For Woods, a prop, the question of who was to wear the No.7 jersey wasn't as vital in his decision making as it was to a fullback like Tedesco.

He wanted to know. And he wanted to know if it could be Moses.

A few statements about his defence and it became apparent to Tedesco that Moses wasn't in the coach's plans.

Bulldogs prop Aaron Woods.
Bulldogs prop Aaron Woods. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

That was all but the end of Tedesco's interest and the end of the chairman's hopes of landing the trio in a multimillion-dollar package deal.

They wanted the three of them. In the end, they got one, and Kieran Foran's signature would follow in the coming months.

"The Bulldogs were an option for me," Tedesco said.

"And the Roosters were an option for me. But at the end of the day, I thought Roosters were the best fit for me.

"Speaking to Robbo (coach Trent Robinson) and Mini (Anthony Minichiello) as well, he was a big factor for me to benefit my game. At the end of the day, the Roosters were the best option for me and that's why I chose here."

Tedesco won't be the only one in the Roosters team at Allianz Stadium on Friday night that could have been a Bulldog.

It turns out centre Latrell Mitchell also trialled with the club as a 16-year-old.

Apparently, he wasn't good enough. He never received a phone call back after being invited down to trial by then recruitment manager Noel Cleal.

Talk about the ones that got away.

Taumata attempting yet another comeback

It's the season of forgiveness in the Telstra Premiership. There's been great conjecture about Matt Lodge and Todd Carney in recent weeks and now another perennial bad boy has received a lifeline.

The Wentworthville Magpies, the feeder club of the Parramatta Eels, have brought Arana Taumata into the club as he looks to make the most of what will be his final chance of making something in the NRL.

Arana Taumata.
Arana Taumata. ©NRL Photos

Taumata has been at the Brisbane Broncos, Sydney Roosters, Bulldogs, Melbourne Storm, Wests Tigers, North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers - and has been sacked from a number of those clubs.

In 2011 he was investigated by police over prescription fraud, found guilty of stealing a prescription pad from the Panthers club doctor, and using it to attempt to buy valium.

He hasn't played in the NRL for six years but the 28-year-old has been given another chance by Magpies coach Nathan Cayless.

Cap case close to completion

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has asked the integrity unit for final pieces of information as he looks to bring to an end to the salary cap investigation into the Manly Sea Eagles.

Given the matter relates to some individuals who are now at other clubs, Greenberg wants to make sure all the relevant information has been passed on and matches up.

"Manly came and presented to us and gave us additional information," he said.

"I've asked for some additional information to be presented to me by the integrity unit. I'll [get] that hopefully by the next two weeks ... There were some things I wanted more clarity on.

Match Highlights: Knights v Sea Eagles - Round 1; 2018

"You have to be mindful that we're talking about individuals and we're talking about clubs and we're talking about individuals that are no longer at certain clubs. There's a lot of information you need to cross-reference with each other. I'm mindful of making sure all of that is provided to me."

While it could take as long as next month, Greenberg said he wouldn't be rushed into making a decision despite being mindful of the cloud hanging over the sport and the Sea Eagles.

"I'm not going to put a timeline on it," Greenberg said.

"You've seen me over a period of time that when we go through these very detailed investigations it needs to be thorough. The decisions we make have to be very well thought through and carefully considered.

"I want to make it sooner rather than later because I don't want a shadow hanging over Manly or the game itself. But these are important decisions and I understand the gravity of these decisions, which is why I will take my time and consider all the information carefully."

Norman's kick conundrum

Eels pivot Corey Norman.
Eels pivot Corey Norman. ©NRL Photos

There were a few people at the Parramatta Eels quite critical of the referee over an incident on the weekend which involved a kick from Corey Norman in the second half.

The kick hit the referee and the Panthers pounced on the ricochet and scored from the ensuing set. The rules state the attacking team gets a scrum feed if a kick hits the referee, which the Eels believe they should have received.

However, the officials also have the discretion to allow play to continue should they deem the contact didn't have a major effect on the end result of the kick. That's why play was allowed to continue in that instance.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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