Former Brisbane Broncos centre Gehamat Shibasaki has coach Adam O'Brien's long memory to thank for being given the chance to establish himself in the NRL at the Newcastle Knights.
It was back in May last year, in only his second appearance in the top grade in the centres, that Shibasaki did a great job defensively on big-name opposite Latrell Mitchell as the Broncos upset the eventual premiers Sydney Roosters 15-10.
It was a performance that caught the eye of then Roosters attacking coach O'Brien in the rival coach's box at Suncorp Stadium.
"I just thought he did a really good job defensively on Latrell in that game and it stayed with me,"O'Brien recalls.
So when O'Brien landed the Knights job and was looking for an outside back to fill the void left by the departure of Jesse Ramien and Shaun Kenny-Dowall, the 96kg Townsville-born 21-year-old sprang to mind.
"I identified him pretty quickly after I got here when we lost Jesse Ramien and Shaun Kenny-Dowall and needed to fill some spots there out wide," O'Brien said.
"We only had five guys and you really need nine in your outside backs to start a season because you are playing with five of them each week.
"We knew Brisbane were pretty flushed in that area and we were looking at clubs that had some guys looking for an opportunity.
"I spent some time with Alex [McKinnon] looking at Gehamat and I really like the way he defends.
"I remember noticing him defensively against Latrell. He was really strong and that was a big appeal for me obviously because that's the area I'm focused on the most - making sure we defend well. So he fitted the bill there."
The next step was to see whether he would potentially be a good fit at the Knights.
"Alex looked at him a bit more in-depth and got him down and met with him and look, he's a great character," O'Brien said.
"He's everything we sort of want. He's a big guy, he's tough but he's extremely humble and he'll add to your culture as well. He's humble and quiet without being distanced from the group and has fitted in really well."
With Bradman Best already penciled in for the left centre role, Shibasaki is in a dog-fight with the more experienced Hymel Hunt and Tautau Moga for the right centre spot. There is also the likes of outstanding young rookie Starford Toa and new Cowboys recruit Enari Tuala vying for positions out wide.
"There is a bit of a group - a log-jam there where we've got guys going after a couple of spots which is really healthy," O'Brien said.
"Enari had a rolled ankle at Tamworth that hampered him a bit [before Christmas] but he's back at training now and he's been really impressive and trained really well. Gehamat has come down and fitted straight in.
"I knew he'd have a good base behind him being up there at the Broncos so he's slotted in really well. So you've got those two, Tau, Hymel and Star as well competing for that right centre, right wing side of the field."
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