The day Jonah Lomu almost signed for Sheffield Eagles

Jonah Lomu nearly signed for Sheffield Eagles
Jonah Lomu nearly signed for Sheffield Eagles
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The sad news of the death of New Zealand Rugby Union legend Jonah Lomu sent shock waves around the sporting world today.

But few Sheffielders know that the Kiwi powerhouse could have been running on the pitch at Don Valley Stadium in the red and gold of Sheffield Eagles rugby league club.

In 1995 The Eagles were looking for a big-name player to head up a charge into the newly formed Super League.

During that year's Rugby Union World cup in South Africa the then Eagles boss Gary Hetherington headed out to watch the New Zealand juggernaut in action.

On Tuesday, June 13, 1995 Hetherington told The Star "We are very much in the game for Lomu. He's a player we're keen to recruit.

"Our objective is to get a top side and we could do with a world-class high-profile player.

"Of all the players, he is the one we are keen on. We would like to see him at Sheffield."

Ironically, in The Star the following day Eagles were linked with England fullback Mike Catt, who Lomu famously trampled on the way to scoring one of his four tries during the World Cup Semi Final.

In 2009 Hetherington revealed on website hittingthewall how close Lomu came to moving to South Yorkshire.

"Sheffield Eagles were competing well, but we needed to get to the next level.

Former Sheffield Eagles boss Gary Hetherington was in talks to bring Jonah Lomu  to South Yorkshire

Former Sheffield Eagles boss Gary Hetherington was in talks to bring Jonah Lomu to South Yorkshire

"It was the start of Super League, when we’d just all signed up, and each club was going to get £1.2million all of a sudden.

"I'd been told about this Jonah Lomu,

"We went to South Africa to the Union World Cup to see him play (then) met up with Jonah and his agent Phil Kingsley Jones, and basically offered him a million quid over five years – which, then, was a huge amount of money."

Eagles weren't the only rugby league club looking to capture Lomu. Word quickly spread that Hetherington was in South Africa, and Leeds and Wigan both joined the group of admirers to capture the New Zealander.

"There was a genuine interest from Jonah," Hetherington said.

"But then he just exploded, with his performances against England and Ireland in the World Cup.

“He didn’t make a move and eventually Adidas came in with some money for the New Zealand Rugby Union and he stayed.

"But I can say this now: we actually came very close to getting him!”