The Canberra Raiders' snared its first big-name recruit in their aggressive recruit drive by signing Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco for the next three seasons on Tuesday.
But Kevin Proctor's decision to stay loyal to Melbourne Storm and turn down a rich Raiders offer prevented a red-letter day for the club getting better.
Canberra has been desperate to sign a quality no.1 since Anthony Milford confirmed he would honour his two-year contract with Brisbane Broncos after this season.
Tedesco said it was tough telling Tigers teammates he had agreed to be part of Raiders coach Ricky Stuart's rebuilding drive from 2015.
Tedesco is believed to be on a contract worth around $1.9 million, which would likely make him Canberra's highest-paid player.
"I told the boys this morning [Tuesday], it was quite hard and I got a bit emotional there,'' Tedesco told media in Sydney.
"It was never really about the money. I spoke to Ricky when I went down there on Thursday and saw a great opportunity for me.
"Obviously negotiations with the Tigers didn't work out as myself and my manager planned, that's the way it goes.
"I thank the Tigers for their support. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing for them, and worrying about going to Canberra next year.''
Tedesco was convinced to join the Raiders when he visited club headquarters last Wednesday with manager Sam Ayoub and another Raiders recruiting target, Penrith winger Josh Mansour.
He has played just 25 NRL games and only five this year through injury, but his explosive displays have already prompted comparisons with Billy Slater.
The Raiders were a strong chance to secure Proctor after offering him a three year deal worth $2.1 million, well in excess of Storm's offer.
The Kiwi international was genuinely torn between the two clubs, before deciding to stay in Melbourne for the next four years at the eleventh hour.
“I’ve invested a lot of time into the club and agreeing to terms is about me showing my appreciation to Melbourne Storm and repaying the loyalty they have shown me in the seven years I have been here,” Proctor said.
“In weighing up the decision, I just knew I would be happier here and you can’t put a price on happiness.”
Stuart flew to Melbourne this week in an attempt to convince Proctor to sign, but was relieved to have signed Tedesco.
"It's exciting. He's a young player with a lot of talent and we're very fortunate we've got his services,'' Stuart said.
"He plays a genuine fullback role and has got a ton of pace.
"He's got a very bright future ahead of him and it's great he's on board.''
Ayoub insisted Tedesco is up to the pressure of justifying his rich contract.
"He can see the big picture going forward. They're in a rebuilding phase and he's going to be a part of that,'' he said.
"In the end if he’s a marquee player it’s not going to make him play any better or any worse, it’ll have no bearing on what he provides that footy team.''
Ayoub said he sympathised with the Tigers losing a star junior, but said their salary cap situation meant they couldn't compete with Canberra's offer.
The Tigers have re-signed a host of quality junior talent recently, headed by outstanding halfback Luke Brooks, and some players are on back-ended contracts.
Tigers CEO Grant Mayer said the club will continue with its policy of developing local juniors.
Mayer has been a vocal critic in the recent past of the lack of junior concessions in the NRL's salary cap.
“We’ve made it absolutely clear that developing local juniors is a priority for this club,” Mayer said.
“When another club identifies one of our players as their marquee signing, we simply cannot compete with that.''
The Raiders have been the NRL's most aggressive player on the open market.
Canterbury hooker Michael Ennis was also given a tour of Raiders HQ on Monday, and the Raiders are understood to be favourite to snare him on a two-year $1 million deal.