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The bizarre story behind the billionaire who nearly changed Super League with mammoth signing

In 1997 one of the biggest and most important transfers in Super League history took place when Paul Sculthorpe left Warrington Wolves for St Helens paving the way for his hugely successful career.

However, it could have been very different with the billionaire bank rolled London Broncos led by Richard Branson coming in for the player.

They made their intentions clear showing the star power they had arriving from Australia and even finished second in 1997 above St Helens.

Speaking about the story on Names From The Game, Sculthorpe told the quite bizarre story of how Branson pushed for the signing:

“The first offer I received when it was all made public was from the London Broncos, when Richard Branson had bought them.

“They talked about some of the Australian players they were looking to bring over. I said I’d speak to them and see what the best decision would be for me and my family.

“We rocked up at this gaff – an eight million pound house at Holland Park – and they said ‘Richard is in a meeting at the moment and he will come through when he’s done.’

“So, we’re sat in the lounge area and there is a U-shape of couches with a coffee table in front of them. We are just chatting away and the next thing Richard Branson walked in – he has just got this real aura about him and it just went deathly silent.

“He walked over to me, lifted my leg onto this coffee table and started shining my shoe with his shirt saying ‘so what have I got to do to get you?’

“I was thinking how good is this? A 19-year-old from Oldham with a billionaire polishing my shoes!

The personal terms would be agreed, London were willing to pay the fee but in the end the lure of playing for Saints at the top proved too much:

“The personal teams were pretty much ‘we’ll give you whatever you want’ so I had agreed that there and then.

“What was still to be negotiated was the transfer fee at Warrington and what they were willing to pay.

“However, a couple of days after, St Helens came in.

“My only reason for leaving Warrington was about winning trophies and playing with the best players and playing on the biggest stage.”

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