Melbourne Storm fans breathed a sigh of relief when Cameron Munster re-signed with the club, but the star five-eighth has revealed just how close he came to walking away.
Munster was a prized free agent before committing to the Storm, with public overtures coming from Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett as well as interest from a number of other NRL clubs.
While the 28-year-old eventually signed a four-year extension with Melbourne worth less than what he was offered by the Dolphins, Munster has admitted leaving the Storm was a more tantalising prospect than expected.
Munster, who is in England for the Rugby League World Cup, told the Daily Telegraph he was 'done' and that staying at the club ultimately came down to a frank conversation between himself and coach Craig Bellamy.
"I was done. (Chairman Matt Tripp) and the owners and the club knew that," Munster said.
“I kind of told Craig that if he wasn’t staying on, I was going.
“He reassured me that he was probably going to have one more year and who knows, he might keep going. Who knows with him. That was one of the turning points.”
Originally for Munster, the challenge of helping build something new with the Dolphins had been an alluring prospect, but that changed after the 2022 NRL grand final.
Penrith's back-to-back triumphs stirred a competitive fire in Munster, reaffirming his decision to stay in Melbourne.
“I thought I might as well go and challenge myself somewhere else – then I saw how Penrith won the final and went back-to-back, and how competitive they have been,” Munster said.
“I felt like I wanted to be competitive and play finals football. I felt the best chance to win another premiership was in Melbourne.
“Regardless of who is going to be the coach or the coaching staff, Melbourne is probably the place to get the best out of myself.”
Fans on social media couldn't believe how close Munster had come to walking away.
Everything is Penriths fault apparently even Munsters career choices. The Penrith Melbourne rivalry is starting to take shape
— Axel (@Axel_oz788) November 2, 2022
As a Penrith fan, apologies to the Dolphins.
— Erin Clarke (@ErinClarke_19) November 2, 2022
See, the Panthers being so successful has benefited so many yet they are so hated.
Why the hate?
— Pikey (@pikey14) November 2, 2022
Cameron Munster's decision leaves Dolphins in NRL lurch
After months of publicly pursuing Munster, the 28-year-old ultimately rebuffed a four-year deal tabled by the Dolphins that was reportedly worth up to $5.6 million.
It was a bitterly disappointing outcome for Bennett and the Dolphins, who have aggressively pursued key players ahead of their NRL debut in 2023.
Several high-profile NRL reporters have since questioned whether Bennett is still the draw to players that he once was, questioning if the 72-year-old's 'aura' had diminished after taking the Dolphins job.
Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss told SEN missing out on Munster could be a telling sign of Bennett's fading allure in the NRL.
“What does this say for the Dolphins and the aura of Wayne Bennett? Do you think Wayne Bennett has got anyone across the line where there was some kind of bidding war? My quick answer is no, he hasn’t," Voss said.
“The fact is, the aura of Wayne Bennett, it can’t be there because they haven’t won a bidding war… where Wayne Bennett was the deciding factor.”
The Daily Telegraph's Riccio described the failed signing as a 'monumental blow' for the Dolphins, while Greg Alexander concurred that Bennett had 'lost his aura'.
Munster joins Harry Grant, Jahrome Hughes, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Xavier Coates, Justin Olam and Christian Welch all signing long-term deals to stay at Storm until at least the end of the 2025 season.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.