Former Junior Kiwi captain David Bhana owes new Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman a favour.
A ringing endorsement from the New South Wales State of Origin and Australian backrower has thrown Bhana an NRL lifeline.
Bhana was seemingly destined for a successful first grade career when signed by the Warriors three years ago and then leading the club's under 20s team to the 2013 grand final. He was named in the Holden Cup team of the year across the entire competition alongside several players who are now first team regulars in the NRL including West Tigers star Luke Brooks.
But then he virtually disappeared off the radar, finding the jump up from under 20s to first grade too big a leap. The Warriors let him go last year after concluding he would not make first grade.
Enter Hoffman who received a phone call from new Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown who then approached Bhana, offering him a contract.
"It came out of the blue at a time when I didn't have any options," Bhana, a Bachelor of Science and Environmental Science graduate, told Sydney's Daily Telegraph.
"My manager rang to tell me there was interest from the Knights. It just went from there."
Bhana, 22, said Brown had rang Hoffman who convinced him the young utility forward was worth a second chance.
"'Hoffy' gave me a real big wrap," Bhana told the Telegraph.
"He said if you are looking for someone who works hard, does all the little things right and will always give 100 per cent, David's your man. I'm really thankful to Hoffy for that."
Bhana hasn't missed his opportunity. A strong off-season had led to him becoming one of five NRL debutants named by Brown in the Knights line-up for Sunday's opening round clash against the Titans on the Gold Coast. He'll come off the bench in a utility capacity that will see him fill-in for hooker Tyler Randell.
"I haven't played too much hooker before but having 'Bedsy' (former Test hooker Danny Buderus) here has really helped me," he said.
"Browny just told me that I'd trained outstanding in the pre-season and had impressed him in the trial against the Raiders and he was giving me a shot.
"I was always confident of getting a look-in if I kept at it but not in my wildest dreams did I expect it would come this early in round one."