OF all the tens of millions of dollars the Newcastle Knights have flushed down the S-bend over the past decade, it is the $250,000 they didn't spend that has perhaps hurt them most.
A quarter of a million bucks. In recent times, they've paid players more than that to go and run around with rival clubs.
Back in 2008, however, every cent mattered to the Knights, and $250,000 was a significant investment in any player. Newcastle certainly weren't in a position to spend that much on a 16-year-old kid but, unfortunately for them, the Sydney Roosters were.
An athletic back-rower in the Knights' Harold Matthews (under-16) squad had caught the eye of Roosters recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan told his club: "He's the best player in the country for his age. At 14, he was the best player in the under-15s. At 15, he was the best player in the under-16s."
The kid's name was Boyd Cordner, and when the Roosters offered him a three-year deal worth $250,000, with an option for a fourth season, Knights officials knew they had a problem.
As one club insider recalled: "We offered him the biggest deal we'd ever offered a kid that age, but the Roosters blew us out of the water.
"The trouble was that if we'd matched the Roosters' offer, we'd have had to include him in our top 25 [players], and he was only 16."
As Cordner's then coach, Garth Brennan, said: "I drove up to Old Bar to talk it over with Boyd and his dad. It was a no-brainer. I said: 'If you don't sign it, I'll drive down there and sign it for you'."
Brennan had no doubt Cordner's preference would have been to stay at the Knights.
"I know that he wanted to stay," Brennan said.
"He liked Newcastle and his brother, Dane, was a couple of years ahead of him in the Knights' juniors.
"Sydney was obviously that bit further away from Old Bar than Newcastle was, and I was a bit concerned that some country kids go to Sydney and stop enjoying their footy. But he was able to stay with some family friends down there and settled in, although I know that Newcastle still has a special place in his heart."
At the end of his first pre-season with the Roosters, Cordner played 22 minutes of a trial game against a Parramatta team that included the likes of Fuifui Moimoi, Jarryd Hayne and Tim Mannah.
Still 16, he was back at school the following Monday, telling his disbelieving mates that he had played first grade at the weekend.
It didn't surprise Brennan one bit.
"When I was coaching him, and he was 15, I had to stop some training sessions because he was hurting kids 12 or 18 months older than him," he said.
Then followed two knee reconstructions and a broken jaw before, in 2011, five days ahead of his 19th birthday, he made his official NRL debut off the bench.
Eight years down the track, Cordner has achieved almost everything the game has to offer. He's a young veteran of 167 top-grade games.
He has won grand finals with the Roosters in 2013 and 2019, and played in 15 Origins and 18 Test matches.
He has captained NSW in their past three series, and the Kangaroos in two Tests.
After the retirement of Greg Inglis, he shapes as a long-term leader of the national team.
And on Sunday at ANZ Stadium, he will attempt to become the first player in history to lead both his state and club to titles in successive seasons, something beyond even champions like Cameron Smith, Darren Lockyer and Allan Langer.
Of all the players the Knights have allowed to slip through their fingers in recent times - Latrell Mitchell, Tevita Pangai jnr, Payne Haas and Josh Jackson among them - Cordner is perhaps their greatest regret.
Had they managed to retain him, he would have been 19 when Wayne Bennett arrived in Newcastle, and playing in a side alongside seasoned campaigners Danny Buderus, Willie Mason, Kurt Gidley and Darius Boyd.
The hypothetical question is would he have made a difference during the three wooden spoon seasons of 2015-17?
"Absolutely," Brennan said. "If you were looking to set up a club from scratch, and could sign any players, a lot of people would pick someone like Cameron Smith first up. I'd sign Boyd Cordner. He's the heart and soul of your club. He sets the standards. He's a great player, a great leader and the type of person you can build a club around."
Former Knights coach Nathan Brown expressed interest in 2015 in bringing him back. But given that Cordner is contracted to the Roosters until the end of 2023, it appears Newcastle fans will forever be wondering what might have been.