This time last year Heath Gibbs was "digging holes" at work.
Now the Western Suburbs centre is an Aboriginal education officer at Shortland Public School and studying through open foundation at the University of Newcastle.
"I love what I do and find it really rewarding," Gibbs said.
"I don't have a bad day at work."
The 22-year-old, who lives at The Hill, has experienced a similar transformation on the field in recent times playing Newcastle Rugby League after an extended period in the Knights' system.
"Last year I just wasn't enjoying my footy as much," Gibbs said.
"All the pressures, making or not making teams and just getting older and realising what you want."
Gibbs always had passion and talent for the game, from the moment he picked it up aged just six.
He "never missed a season", wherever he was located across NSW at various stages, playing juniors at clubs such as the Bathurst Panthers and the Sydney-based Riverstone Razorbacks.
His parents, mother Pania Tahu and father Gavin Gibbs, drove four hours each way from home in Bourke to Dubbo for a run with the PCYC Dragons.
"Mum and dad drove me to Dubbo just to play footy. I'm so thankful for that," Timana Tahu's nephew said.
Gibbs moved to the Hunter region as a 14-year-old and linked with Souths before joining the Knights' representative ranks.
Outside a brief period with the Wests Tigers, he has been with Newcastle's NRL club for under-16, under-18, under-20 and most recently NSW Cup duties.
Following a tough 2019 and off-season break, Gibbs came back "keen" but this year's senior, statewide competition was cancelled after one round because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Facing the prospect of "no footy" in 2020, Newcastle RL was given the green light so he travelled with fellow Knights centre and friend Kiah Cooper to Wests where former under-20 coach Todd Lowrie was in charge.
"I'm so happy just to be out there. Training around the boys and doing what I love. Playing games just makes it even better," Gibbs said.
Saturday at Harker Oval has Wests hosting Souths, where Gibbs played the back end of last season.
The first meeting against his former teammates happens to fall on Sleapy's Day, the annual charity fundraiser normally held at a Lions' home game.
"It's always so packed. In juniors I remember it being a big day. In seniors, even the week leading up to is is special. Souths will be hard to beat."
Sleapy's Day is set to be marked with multiple events across the weekend.
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