All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara has revealed how close he was to inking a deal with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.
The 29-year-old halfback has signed with the Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby for two and a half years, a contract he will begin once his playing stint with the Red Hurricanes in Japan's Top League ends in June.
It follows the revelation Perenara was in advanced talks to make a shock code switch to rugby league, and link up with the Eastern Sydney club.
Speaking on the What a Lad podcast, which is hosted by Perenara's old teammate at the Hurricanes James Marshall, he says the decision to return to New Zealand was made by he and his family at the 11th hour.
"We were at a stage at one point where we might've even been leaning more towards going to league and coming back to Japan as a dual sort of deal than we were coming home.
"[The night before it] was 50/50, maybe a little more in favour of coming back to New Zealand. But two or three weeks ago, if we had to make the decision on that day, it could've been a different decision. We were probably more in favour of coming back to Japan and playing in the NRL."
Perenara says conversations with the glamour rugby league club, which included head coach Trent Robinson, were well advanced.
"I got to the point where I was getting training drills and conditioning plans to prepare myself to play league, and implementing that… not stuff that would distract or take me away from playing rugby, but stuff that I could easily do at the backend of a training session, that would really help me condition into going to league.
"It was really really close and it was a really tough decision. I spoke to Trent [on Monday] about it as well and he was in full support in either decision I made, he understood the reasons for coming if I came and the reasons if I didn't. It was really good to work with him on that level too."
There were two main drivers that helped Perenara choose home. One was family time amid the ongoing and uncertain coronavirus pandemic.
"I haven't been with Amaia [daughter] since 30th of January, so that's been a long time... risking our daughter's health is just not something we wanted to do. Although we don't know what the world is going to be like in six months' time, it potentially could be fine and we could've come over as a family, but there was always that potential that it might not be.
"It's probably been the hardest three or four months of my life not having them. [Also] I felt if I don't go back to New Zealand as well there's always a part of me thinking 'I haven't done everything I wanted to do, there's still some unfinished business for me'."
Perenara says a move to Australia was presenting a few complications around insurance, but he and the Roosters were confident it could be sorted.
"I would've finished here, gone and did my isolation in Sydney and joined the team in the backend of the year. We fell into a couple of complications with insurance. But that wasn't a deciding factor, I spoke with people in the Roosters environment yesterday and if we decided to do it we would've found a way to make the insurance side of it work too."
The 66-cap All Black's new deal with New Zealand Rugby will take him through to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France. He says he won't be part of the Hurricanes side for their Super Rugby Transtasman campaign but should be able to train with them.