Arrow breaks down at Titans exit
JAI Arrow broke down in tears when telling the Gold Coast Titans he was joining South Sydney and says it's for others to decide if he will arrive at Redfern this season.
Arrow has inked a four-year deal worth $3.2 million with the Rabbitohs to reunite with coach Wayne Bennett from 2021.
But the Queensland Origin star could be headed south sooner if the Titans and Rabbitohs reach an agreement for Arrow to be released from the Gold Coast immediately.
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In his first interview since signing with Souths, Arrow said it was not his call to decide which jersey he will be wearing for the 2020 NRL season.
"I've already made one of the toughest decisions of my life and I don't want that one hanging over me," Arrow said.
"I'm still contracted to the Titans this year. It wouldn't be weird for me to stay - I get along with the coaching staff, club and players.
"I love the Titans, I won't be unhappy if I stay. If the club wants me to stay I'm not going to kick stones. But I won't be filthy if they decide they want to move me on.
"I don't want to make that decision. I'd rather let that work itself out.
"I'm the type of guy that no matter where I am or what I'm doing I'll always do my best."
THE BENNETT FACTOR
Arrow, 24, agonised over his future for more than three months as he received huge offers from the Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers along with the Titans' proposal to keep him.
Arrow made his NRL debut under Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos in 2016 before moving to the Titans from 2018, where he has played 38 games and become a Maroons representative.
A proud Gold Coast product, Arrow said he never envisaged leaving the Titans until the Rabbitohs presented a compelling case for him to head south.
Rabbitohs boss Shane Richardson flew to the Gold Coast to meet with Arrow while Bennett made numerous phone calls to secure his signature.
"They really fought for me - they really wanted me down there," he said.
"Ever since I left the Broncos, Wayne always said to me he wanted to get me back. He got the opportunity to do that and I felt I owed him a bit as well.
"Not taking anything away from Justin (Holbrook, Titans coach), he's been doing a great job with us, but Wayne always said he wanted to get me back and he fought for me. He was a factor.
"They told me where they saw me there. They told me all the right things and really sold it to me.
"I'm very grateful to join such a proud club and one with such great history but it's devastating I have to leave a club I hold so close to my heart.
"I'm excited about it, don't get me wrong, but also very sad I'll have to leave my home town."
The Titans have been criticised for their handling of the Arrow negotiations after refusing to get into a bidding war for one of their best players.
The Rabbitohs trumped the Titans' offer by at least $500,000, but Arrow said he felt the Gold Coast wanted to retain him.
"They said 'we love you, we want to keep you here'. I didn't feel unloved by them, they wanted to keep me," Arrow said.
"Football doesn't last forever. I've always said this is where I'm from and I'll most likely end up here after my career.
"I'm very excited for the next chapter. It gets me out of my comfort zone."
THE TEARS AND TROLLS
Holbrook took the Titans away for a pre-season camp in Coffs Harbour from December 18-21.
The players had their phones confiscated to encourage them to bond.
For Arrow, it was four days where he didn't have to agonise about making the biggest decision of his life.
When he returned, Arrow gave himself two days to make a decision and on December 23 informed the Titans he would be leaving to join South Sydney from 2021-24.
"I called Justin, Mal (Meninga, recruitment chief) and Dennis (Watt, chairman) to tell them what my decision was and all three phone calls I was balling my eyes out," Arrow said.
"It was hard for me. I've made a decision to leave somewhere I'm very comfortable at and have grown so fond of the club, players and staff.
"It's my home town. My partner's family is from here as well. It was tough, that's why I got so emotional about it."
The news of Arrow's defection was met with stinging criticism from Titans fans.
Only weeks earlier, Arrow had spoken about his love for the Gold Coast and wanting to lead the club to its first NRL premiership.
He genuinely thought he would remain at the Titans for the rest of his career. But the injury-forced retirement of Rabbitohs legend Sam Burgess made Arrow South Sydney's prime recruitment target.
"If you told me 12 months ago I would be leaving the Gold Coast I would have laughed at you," Arrow said.
"I've had a few people spraying me on social media but I don't really care. If they knew my reasons and were put in the same situation as me they would be wondering why people are bagging me.
"It was a tough situation I was put in. It affected my everyday life. I sat on the couch crying to my partner when I made the decision.
"I knew when the negotiations started that I couldn't please everyone. I felt like the Titans have given me so much so it was hard to walk away and choose another club.
"I'm thinking a little bit clearer now it's all done. I've got a massive weight off my shoulders.
"It wasn't an easy decision but it's what was best for me."