Eels utility back Clint Gutherson says he hasn't suited up in the halves since junior footy but after an outstanding stint there in his team's narrow loss to Penrith on Sunday added he enjoyed getting his hands on the ball.
The former Sea Eagle slotted in alongside Jeff Robson in place of Corey Norman and started Sunday's game like a house on fire, holding up a nice pass to help create Bureta Faraimo's second-minute try before producing a deft grubber kick for Bevan French to score then slicing through for a try of his own all inside the first 16 minutes.
He kept it up for 80 minutes and was desperately unlucky not to score a late match-winner – only some quick thinking and fierce defence from Penrith hooker Peter Wallace held him up in-goal – and earned the praise of his coach after the game.
"He did a good job, Gutho," said Eels coach Brad Arthur with a rare smile
"He was good, kept it plain and simple and the good thing about it is he executed it and he stuck to it. I think he strayed there once with a kick but other than that he just did what he was asked to do." Arthur added he wasn't surprised at Gutherson's quick success in the new role and added it may happen again next week depending on who else is available for selection.
"Gutho's a footballer. I think we could put him anywhere. He just competes. He's a footballer… He's probably put his hand up for [a spot in the halves] next week at this stage if we don't get any players back. Later on down the track I think his best position is probably fullback. He's done all right for us."
Gutherson said even though the role was unfamiliar it had been exciting to get the opportunity.
"I probably wouldn't have played there since junior footy which is a bit exciting. It was good to get my hands on the ball. It's a bit disappointing about the result but it was a good experience," he said.
"I knew pretty early [in the week] I might be playing there so I had my head around it, it doesn't faze me – I just love playing footy."
He deflected praise of his creative skills, joking he thought his grubber for French's try was travelling well past the dead ball line
"I was probably a bit lucky to be honest, I thought the one where I put it into 'Bevs' was going about 50 metres deep but he somehow got there. But it doesn't really mean anything without the two points. It's a bit disappointing that we couldn't lead the team to victory."
Gutherson has told NRL.com previously his preferred spot long-term is in the No.1 jersey though now, as ever, he insisted he'll play anywhere if it means an NRL jersey.
"It's a good experience to be playing anywhere, I've played everywhere in the backs this year and it's good experience to be playing anywhere at NRL level to be honest," he said.
"The more games you play the better you'll get and as a lot of other boys playing out of position as well it will help them in the long term and it will help the team going into the final eight rounds."
Earlier in the season Gutherson loomed as the likely successor to Michael Gordon at the back for Parramatta but the emergence of youngster Bevan French – whose preferred spot is also fullback – coupled with the possibility of superstar fullback Jarryd Hayne returning next year means Gutherson may have to think about other spots if he does remain at the club longer term.
"We've got a few good fullbacks there. We've got 'Flash' [Gordon] at the moment, we've got Bevo on the wing biding time but if I'm here for the long term that would be my number one [choice] but if Bevo comes in I'm happy to play and if we're winning it doesn't matter where you're playing, if you're playing good footy it doesn't really matter so I'm just happy to be playing."
Gutherson may well be required in the halves again next week depending on Corey Norman's availability but wasn't looking even that far ahead.
"We don't really know, we've got everyone playing everywhere, I ended up out in the centres and on the wing tonight," he said.
"It's just a bit all over the shop but wherever I get put I'll try and do my best and that's with everyone, everyone's got to keep playing well and keep doing their job."
Like his coach, Gutherson insisted the club's season wasn't quite buried despite the equation now looking beyond them – but either way he made special mention of the blue and gold fans for all they had had to put up with in 2016.
"It didn't turn out tonight but I just want to say thanks to all the fans that turned up and are backing us up and showing the faith and we're just going to keep putting in effort," he said.