Godinet shines in Manly debut
When the team sheets came out for Round 1, there was one name in particular, buried in the Intrust Super Premiership lists, that raised a few eyebrows.
Named to start at No.7 for Manly was former Warrior and more recently, Wakefield Wildcat, Pita Godinet.
Most in rugby league land weren't aware the eight-time Samoan Test representative was even back in the country.
He continued to ply his trade in the second tier competition – going well from all reports – until a swathe of injuries at the Sea Eagles saw him thrust into first grade to face the Cowboys at Brookvale Oval in Round 9.
With fellow back-up playmakers Isaac John and Tim Moltzen already ruled out, short term injuries to fullback Brett Stewart (hamstring) and hooker or half Api Koroisau (back) and a longer term ailment to second-choice fullback Tom Trbojevic (ankle) saw coach Trent Barrett forced into a major overhaul.
Regular pivot Dylan Walker was moved to the absent fullback role, but with no other playmakers available, 28-year-old Christchurch product Godinet got his chance. And took it.
Playing second fiddle to senior man Daly Cherry-Evans, Godinet finished the night with 17 tackles, eight runs for 50 metres with four tackle busts and four kicks for 59 metres.
Undoubtedly the highlight reel moment came late in the game when thrust into the unfamiliar fullback role once Walker succumbed to hip and quad concerns. Pushing up on a Siosaia Vave offload he streaked into a gap, passed to a supporting Jake Trbojevic then raced through to ground the lock's grubber kick for his first NRL try in Manly colours.
After the game, Godinet shed some light on how he came to be on the northern beaches, revealing he wanted to stay at Wakefield or at least in the UK but with no offers forthcoming, had to return to Australia.
"I think it's a blessing to be here. I think if we look back three months ago I came fresh off the plane back from the UK and didn't know where I was going to be," Godinet told NRL.com.
"Just lucky enough I gave 'Baz' [Manly coach Trent Barrett] a call and there was an opportunity there. He told me to just come down and now we're here."
Barrett said Godinet had been one of, if not the, best players on the team in the loss against North Queensland – but added he himself knew little about the journeyman playmaker.
"He turned up on our door step around Christmas time, he came back from Wakefield and was just looking for an opportunity," Barrett said.
"I think he was a breath of fresh air for us tonight, he was enthusiastic, he was lively, he was courageous, he played fullback and I think he's reflected or showed the character of the team. He was terrific, he was probably our best player to be honest."
Godinet said he had stayed on past the end of the Super League season ended in October through to December trying to organise a new deal to no avail.
"I waited there til December to see what was up and then me and my wife, we packed up and had to come back home. All our family's back here. Probably it was meant to be," he said.
And when he says his family is 'here' he literally means on the northern beaches – his wife Caroline's family lives in Manly. But despite that, the pair had been keen to stay on in the UK.
"We loved it over there, my wife wanted to try and stay there and be stable there but at the end of the last game I got the nod saying there was no contract there and that was a bit of a let-down," he said.
"My wife's family live in Manly so I just came back. I wasn't really asking around, one of the boys I knew, Kylie Leuluai, used to play here, he's played with all the coaching staff so he asked a few of the boys and it went from there."
Of his short but starring stint at fullback in place of the injured Walker, Godinet laughed: "I went straight to Dylan and said 'don't you ever do that again!' But any opportunity I can get to get on the field with the boys and especially with the NRL squad I'll take with two hands."
Godinet also realises that with a fortnight until the team's next game and a few players due back, his spot in first grade is anything but guaranteed.
"I know a few boys are out injured and they'll be back sooner rather than later and I think in a way as a club it's good for us to keep each other on our toes and we keep fighting just to get the spot."