John Asiata, the North Queensland Cowboys forward with the skills of a halfback, has credited his growing family as one of the reasons he chose to stay in Townsville when other clubs came knocking.
Born in Penrith, Asiata is a product of Cowboys coach Paul Green's tutelage, having played in Green's team in the under-20s at the Sydney Roosters before moving up to Townsville in 2014 and becoming a staple member of the side that won the premiership in 2015.
His decision to sign a three-year contract extension came after as many as six other clubs pursued the young talent in an effort to get him to move back down to Sydney.
"There were other clubs that wanted me to head back down to Sydney… but it was probably the best decision for me to stay here considering having a new-born on the way with my wife, just settling in and having her parents up here just makes everything easier," Asiata said.
Asiata is looking forward to putting the contract talks behind him, and focussing on playing as much high-quality football as possible as the season progresses. He's likely to improve with the move of Ray Thompson into the halves, allowing Asiata to focus on his own performance each week.
"Sometimes you go into a game and knowing that you've got to perform for a new contract it kind of plays on your mind," the forward said.
Green is equally pleased to have Asiata's signature secured, and is confident he has a lot of improvement yet to come as his career continues at the Cowboys.
"I think he's early in his development pathway, there's a lot of untapped potential there for Johnny and I think… his best footy is ahead of him," Green said.
While Asiata is pushing for more minutes on the field, Green has left the decision up to the forward's fitness and it seems his wish might be granted.
"He's certainly working hard in that area and I've seen a huge improvement in that area also this year. He's starting, we got a few blokes back on deck, so he's probably back in his preferred position among the forwards," the premiership-winning coach said.
Asiata has been praised by Green and his teammates for his amazing ball skills, uncommon in 102kg front-rowers, and Green is eager to see him work the ball close to the line this Thursday when the Cowboys take on the Cronulla Sharks.