Sam Burgess didn't know it at the time, but a broken promise to Payne Haas would cost South Sydney the signature of the most sought-after teenager in the country.
Inside a Redfern café three years ago, Haas sat alongside Burgess and Michael Maguire.
Haas had flown with his father from their Gold Coast home to Sydney to meet the Rabbitohs - one of 12 clubs chasing the in-demand 16-year-old.
The now 19-year-old prop, who on Wednesday night will make his State of Origin debut for NSW after just 10 NRL games, was star struck in the company of Burgess.
So when the Englishman volunteered to venture to Penrith later that week to watch Haas play for Keebra Sports High in the GIO Cup final, the Rabbitohs had all but sealed the signature of the gentle giant.
"Before the game I was looking around for him," Haas said.
"But he didn’t come. I was a kid. It hurt me a bit. I used to love Souths. My dad’s a mad Souths fan. And Sam Burgess was someone I grew up idolising. It’s funny how things impact you when you’re young.
"I was pretty close to signing there. The only reason I didn’t go any further with it was because Sammy told me he was going to come to my game. But he brushed me so I was like ‘oh don’t worry then, I’m not coming to South Sydney’."
It’s a story Haas would later tell Wayne Bennett during their time together at the Broncos.
So when South Sydney played against Brisbane earlier this month, Bennett told Burgess of the impact his no-show had on Haas.
"Sam wasn’t happy with that," Bennett joked.
Burgess reacted accordingly.
"He came up to me after that game at ANZ Stadium a few weeks ago," Haas said of Burgess.
"He said ‘I’m sorry I didn’t come to your game’. He actually couldn’t remember that he did say that, but he said if he did tell me that, he’s so sorry he didn’t come.
"I don’t hold any grudges against him. He’s a legend of a player and a legend of a person. I think it was all part of the plan. I believe I was destined to be at the Broncos and that’s what happened."
At that stage, Haas had narrowed it down to four clubs – the Storm, Rabbitohs, Titans and Eels.
After putting a line through the Rabbitohs, Haas decided he would sign with Melbourne.
Then Bennett called.
"He said he was walking out the door to catch a plane down to Melbourne and do the deal, with his dad," Bennett said.
"I told him to come and see me. So he did. I couldn’t sell you a car, I couldn’t sell you much in life, but I can sell you on playing football and I can sell you on playing for the Broncos. I’m good at that."
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 1 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
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Haas said the phone call changed the direction of his life.
"I was about to sign with Storm that day," Haas said.
"I had my contract there and had already packed my bags to go to Storm pre-season. Then Wayne called. We had a heart to heart and persuaded me to rip my Melbourne Storm contract up and sign with Brisbane.
"He said he wouldn’t be able to see me leave my family at such a young age. He said it would be a real disaster. He said how much family means to him and said ‘your family means a lot to you don’t they’. He said Brisbane can make me the best possible player I can be, but also keep you with your family."
That was enough for Haas to sign on the dotted line.
Latrell to show Chambers 'no respect'
Latrell Mitchell will show Will Chambers "no respect" when the pair square off in the State of Origin series opener on Wednesday night.
The Mitchell v Chambers showdown is arguably the most anticipated individual duel. While the pair have formed somewhat of a friendship since their heated battles in Origin and the grand final last year, don’t expect there to be much love lost on Wednesday night.
Mitchell is preparing for a verbal and physical barrage from Chambers, who was embarrassed by the Roosters centre in all their matches last year.
"I wouldn’t expect anything less," Mitchell said of Chambers.
"Just for him, let’s keep it the same show nothing on the field. No respect. That’s how I am. But off the field we’ll have a beer and have a laugh. That’s how it is. That’s footy.
"When someone else is better, and obviously Willy has been the best centre for a couple of years now – for me to go up against him it’s made me a better player and helped me come out of my shell a bit.
"I know if I’m not on, he will rip shreds off me. Footy is footy. We said we’d always leave it on the field. Off it we’re mates. On it, it’s a different story."
Eels push ahead with DWZ plans
Parramatta have moved to secure Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s signature with North Queensland also circling the Kiwi captain.
The Eels this week met Watene-Zelezniak’s manager about the prospect of luring him to the club before the June 30 signings deadline.
It’s understood the club is yet to table Watene-Zelezniak a deal but still want him to play right centre.
The Eels are expecting inspirational forward Nathan Brown to return from injury against Cronulla next week.
Barrett back in blue
Trent Barrett was at training with the Blues on Thursday. Barrett, who is still contracted to Manly, isn’t an official member of the coaching staff.
NSW coach Brad Fittler will use the former Blues five-eighth as a sounding board throughout the series.
The Blues players have been rooming with a teammate throughout camp in Bondi, as they have traditionally done.
But Queensland coach Kevin Walters has given his players a room to themselves at the flashy W Hotel in Brisbane.
Jimmy jets off again
While James Roberts was flown to Sydney on Wednesday to undergo a medical with the Rabbitohs, he was back on the plane the next day.
Roberts is in Kempsey with family to attend a funeral of a relative. He will have his first session with Souths on Monday.
The Broncos insist the departure of Roberts will have no bearing on the future of their off-contract players. The club originally made plans around Roberts remaining, confident of also holding on to the likes of Tevita Pangai jnr and Corey Oates.
Reynolds hopping along nicely
Adam Reynolds wasn’t feeling any effects of the leg injury that was originally suspected to rule him out for an extended period.
Reynolds was lively and not showing any signs that the injury causing him any grief during captain’s run on Thursday at Redfern Oval.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.