Paul Baxter: How Hull FC's Scott Prince deal was scuppered at the 11th hour by dream NRL offer
IT is the pivotal position that, try as they might, Hull FC just simply cannot find the right man to fill..
Today, that elusive search for a top-class scrum-half is starting again for the Black and Whites.
When coach Peter Gentle flew out to Australia to hold face to face talks with Gold Coast captain Scott Prince, he described it as a trip to secure the "last piece in the jigsaw".
Today, that piece remains frustratingly missing.
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Prince's decision to turn his back on Hull at the final hour – after more than a month of positive talks – will hurt for some time.
And it is a decision which may leave Hull fans wondering if their club was used as a pawn to help secure the 32-year-old one last big deal in the NRL.
Just last week, Prince's agent broke ranks to 'categorically' state his player would not remain at Gold Coast, despite the club's attempts to keep their captain.
Saying he wanted to sort his future over the weekend, Prince's agent urged Hull to be patient.
It all looked very positive for the Black and Whites, even until Monday morning when a contract was drawn up to be signed, and was approved by the RFL.
But, it was that evening that Hull owner Adam Pearson took the call from Prince's agent to say the deal was off.
A massive offer in the NRL had surfaced, which Hull simply could not match.
Today, it has been confirmed that Prince will stay in Queensland with Brisbane Broncos.
Looking back over the last few days of negotiations, many will view Prince's agent as having played a clever game for his client.
His comments last week invited a bidding war for his player – almost a "come and get me" plea.
Offers from both Brisbane and St George were forthcoming, and with that came an immediate change of heart from the player.
Pearson, however, is prepared to give Prince and his agent the benefit of the doubt.
And he admitted there was always a danger of being trumped when trying to snare one of the world's best players.
"I think he genuinely wanted to come to Hull and was excited about the idea of playing for us," Pearson said when asked if he questioned the motives of either Prince or his agent.
"We have been speaking to Scott and his agent regularly and we had agreed everything with the Titans for his release, and had agreed a deal with him.
"However, once that NRL deal was put in front of him there was only one decision he was going to make."
Hull now face starting next season with Brett Seymour, who fell out of favour last season, or Richard Horne, at scrum-half.
Pearson had pledged to do his all to bring in a quality number seven, and nobody can doubt the effort made.
Hull firstly pursued Castleford's England star Rangi Chase, only for that deal to be scuppered by red tape over a new visa.
It led to Hull identifying and making enquiries over the availability of Jacob Miller at Wests Tigers.
A move for the highly-rated 20-year-old looked promising following Tim Sheens' exit as coach, but his replacement Mick Potter was quick to put the block on Hull's plans when appointed last week.
Having signed seven new players though to transform Gentle's squad, Pearson is confident they can overcome this setback.
"We believe we have brought in seven quality players and we have a good mix of experience and youth throughout the squad," he said.
"I still think there could be an opportunity over the next four weeks for somebody else to come up for us.
"But we have two great hookers in Danny Houghton and Aaron Heremaia, and we have recruited one outstanding half-back already in Daniel Holdsworth.
"There's no need for us to rush into anything because of this.
"I will sit down with Peter and we will look at the next step.
"We will continue looking to recruit top quality, but we have to ensure we get the players we have ready to play the way we want next season."