BO Abra is gunning for a Super Rugby contract and the prop is confident that new Hunter Wildfires scrum coach Andrew Blades can help him secure one.
Abra has committed for a second stint with the Wildfires in the Shute Shield after joining the club at the back end of last season.
The tighthead prop arrived in Newcastle after two seasons with the Western Force. However, the 24-year-old was not offered a new deal with the Super Rugby club.
Abra, from Tamworth, has previously worked with Blades and said the addition of the former Wallabies forwards' coach and Scott Wisemantel in consultancy roles was a big attraction.
"With Andrew Blades and Scott Wisemantel coming on board, it definitely pushed me over the edge," Abra said. "They are obviously very good coaches. I worked with Bladesy at Easts and he is a strong scrum coach. I learnt heaps from him.
"I obviously want to be back in Super Rugby. I want a really strong Shute Shield season. I loved my time in Newcastle last season and I want to help the team win a premiership. It is the best place for me to get back to Super Rugby. Wherever you are most comfortable and happy, you are going to play good footy. If all goes well, I have a contract there waiting for me at the end of the season."
The Wildfires made the Shute Shield finals last season for the first time in club history, going down to grand finalists Norths 23-17 in the elimination play-off.
After the Shute Shield, Abra joined New Zealand side Hawke's Bay and helped steer the Magpies to the Ranfurly Shield and National Provincial Championships final, where they went down to Taranaki 22-19.
"Winning the Ranfurly Shield was as big as winning the comp," Abra said. "It was great to keep playing footy until the end of the year. They had a couple of injuries and another prop go to the World Cup. I played eight or nine games."
Abra, who played 28 games last year, will join the Wildfires in January.
"My body needs a bit of a rest," he said. "In saying that, I'm starting to get itchy feet and just want to get back hitting blokes. I will give Andrew Blades a call and see if there is anything he wants me to start doing now, just low key, to keep the body in scrum shape."
As well as Abra, hookers Andrew Tuala and Hamish Moore are back with the Wildfires and coach Scott Coleman hopes to re-sign loosehead Isi Fukofuka, who is playing in the USA over summer.
"I'm expecting big things from Bo," Coleman said. "He added a lot to us last season on and off the field. Off the field, he is very professional, driven and holds good standards. On the field, he played nearly 80 minutes every week and was a real work horse. You need a dominant set piece to go anywhere in the competition."