Paul Newlove finally got the world record move he wanted, after a two and a half year delay was extended by a further nervous hour.
The Great Britain centre became the game's most expensive player yesterday when he joined St Helens from the Bradford Bulls in a four-year deal valued at half a million - pounds 250,000 in cash plus Saints first-teamers Paul Loughlin, Bernard Dwyer and Sonny Nickle.
Newlove, who is set to make his Saints debut at home to Workington on Sunday, revealed that he had almost joined the club in 1993. "I probably should have come to St Helens over two years ago, but Peter Fox came and swept me away to Bradford," he said.
Ironically it was Fox's replacement as Bradford coach this summer that Newlove cited as his main reason for wanting to leave the club. "I always believed in Peter. He was like a grandfather to me and I was disappointed with the way they treated him," he said.
Newlove has been unsettled at Bradford for most of this season, but turned down a move to Wigan two weeks ago in the hope that St Helens would manage to clinch a deal.
"It's a very friendly club and I've always got on very well with players like Bobbie Goulding and Chris Joynt on international duty," he said.
Saints' chief executive, David Howes, relieved that the paperwork was finally completed after a delay in exchanging faxes with Bradford, called it "a massive deal".
"But players of his calibre do not become available very often. We believe we have signed not just one of the best players in Britain, but the best centre in the world and that we are putting together a side that will get rid of our bridesmaid's tag."
Newlove, still only 24, was Great Britain's youngest international when he faced New Zealand in 1989. Since then he has won 16 Great Britain caps and six for England, including impressive performances in this autumn's Centenary World Cup.
He moved from his hometown club, Featherstone, to Bradford for a fee of pounds 245,000 in July, 1993. The deal that now takes him to Saints beats the previous record, a straight cash payment of pounds 440,000 from Wigan to Widnes for Martin Offiah in January, 1992.
If Saints were excited by their new acquisition, then the deal was also being hailed as a triumph on the other side of the Pennines. Bradford's chairman, Chris Caisley, said: "These are the players we wanted and our coach, Brian Smith, who returns from America on Friday, is ecstatic that we have got them."
The three former Saints, including Nickle, who has recovered from a knee infection, are all earmarked to make their Bradford debuts against Oldham tomorrow night.
Evolution of rugby league's transfer record
1995-96 Paul Newlove Bradford Bulls to St Helens pounds 500,000*
1991-92 Martin Offiah Widnes to Wigan pounds 440,000
1991-92 Ellery Hanley Wigan to Leeds pounds 250,000
1989-90 Graham Steadman Featherstone to Castleford pounds 170,000
1987-88 Garry Schofield Hull to Leeds pounds 155,000
1987-88 Lee Crooks Hull to Leeds pounds 150,000
1986-87 Andy Gregory Warrington to Wigan pounds 130,000
1985-86 Joe Lydon Widnes to Wigan pounds 100,000
1985-86 Ellery Hanley Bradford Northern to Wigan pounds 85,000
1980-81 George Fairbairn Wigan to Hull KR pounds 72,500
1980-81 Trevor Skerrett Wakefield Trinity to Hull pounds 40,000
*(players plus cash)
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