Canterbury have pulled off the biggest signing coup of their multi-year rebuild by luring Josh Addo-Carr to Belmore on a bumper four-year deal from 2022 onwards.
The Bulldogs announced Addo-Carr's recruitment on Wednesday after he toured their facilities last month.
Addo-Carr took up Canterbury's lucrative offer, believed to be worth a little more than $2 million until the end of 2025, having pursued a release on compassionate grounds from Melbourne for the last 12 months.
The NSW Origin flyer's release was knocked back in consultation with Addo-Carr, rendering a heads of agreement to join Wests Tigers on a four-year deal in 2021 null and void.
Canterbury moved quickly once the Tigers offer was taken off the table, with Addo-Carr's early commitment avoiding another year of conjecture over his future.
It is an undoubted endorsement of new coach Trent Barrett, who has also signed Nick Cotric and Kyle Flanagan for 2021 and Penrith's Matt Burton for the following season.
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With that in mind, CEO Andrew Hill described Addo-Carr's signing as the biggest of Canterbury's ongoing rebuild since Des Hasler's exit in 2018.
"There's no doubt whenever you sign a rep player it's always going to see questions asked; 'How big is he? How important is that signing?'," Hill told NRL.com.
"But on the back of the other signings, it continues to build confidence and optimism in what the footy club can become and is the biggest move yet."
Addo-Carr first pursued his release from Melbourne 12 months ago to move back closer to Sydney-based family.
Hill added that throughout talks with the 25-year-old the long-forged Bulldogs values of 'The Family Club', which Melbourne looked to during the foundation years of the late-90s, loomed as a trump card in negotiations.
"To be fair, his desire to come back to Sydney was instrumental," Hill said.
"There's no denying that was critical. After that, what set us apart from the other clubs pursuing him was that Melbourne and the Bulldogs, in terms of culture and values that the Storm was built on are very similar.
"In fact some of it was modelled on our club many years ago when Melbourne was first established.
"So in terms of culture, that was there and then Josh has indicated his confidence in the players we have and that he can continue to improve his footy here and maintain his status in the game as arguably the best winger going."
At no stage, regardless of media speculation, did we ever think we were getting playedBulldogs CEO Andrew Hill
Addo-Carr has previously indicated he wants to switch to fullback, to the point that the Tigers' four-year offer included incentives if he played a certain number of games in the No.1 jumper.
Hill said no such incentives exist in his new Bulldogs contract.
A fullback role at Canterbury could well be possible given the likes of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Will Hopoate and Nick Meaney have been rotated at the back, but is not considered a fait accompli given Addo-Carr's arrival is still 12 months away.
Photos of Addo-Carr's first visit to Belmore in late-November being leaked to the media sparked rumours that it was in fact a distraction from a rival club's pursuit, chiefly South Sydney where Addo-Carr has several close friends.
"At no stage, regardless of media speculation, did we ever think we were getting played," Hill said.
"We've got a pretty structured process with our recruitment now... and if at any time we don't feel that the interest from a player is genuine, that gets raised pretty quickly.
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"At the same time we weren't over-confident because Josh had plenty of clubs after him and all we could do was put forward our case forward.
"We're very pleased and proud that Josh chose our club."
The Bulldogs are expected to remain active in the player market in coming months.
The club has indicated its interest in Addo-Carr's Storm teammate Brandon Smith, who Melbourne would release for 2022 if offered a suitable replacement.
Canterbury is also understood to have pursued young Panthers prop Spencer Leniu with a multi-year offer and have also been linked to fellow Penrith junior Stephen Crichton.
Addo-Carr thanked Melbourne for his time at the club, having grown into a genuine star of the game since arriving in 2017.
He already has two premierships to his name along with NSW Origin, Australian Test honours and billing as the NRL's fastest man.
“I’m relieved to have finally sorted out my playing future and can now focus on making my last year with Storm another one to remember,” Addo-Carr said via a Storm statement.
“I owe so much to this club and have so many great friends and memories that have made me the person I am today."