Super League promotion hopefuls Leigh came "very close" to signing former NRL superstar Jarryd Hayne on a short-term contract, the club's head coach Neil Jukes has confirmed.
The 28-year-old ex-NSW and Parramatta fullback is currently without a job following stints in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and in rugby sevens with Fiji, where he failed to make the cut for the island nation's Olympic team.
It was after that setback Leigh owner Derek Beaumont made his audacious move to sign Hayne after former Eels stars Fuifui Moimoi and Reni Maitui made contact with their former teammate to weigh up his interest in joining to play in the Super 8s qualifiers.
However, the talks with his agent Wayne Beavis came to nothing but Jukes maintained his club did almost pull off the biggest signing in the club's history.
"We came close," Jukes said at the Super 8s launch at Old Trafford.
"Our owner spoke to him and did a lot of work with his agent.
"It was very close. The deadline for this year has gone and the big pull was obviously Reni, a good friend of his who retires this year.
"It just shows how far we've come as a club when we get linked with players like that.
"It would have been very similar I imagine to what Warrington did with Andrew Johns. He probably paid for himself with the bums on seats."