Titans' shining light shunned Storm move
In a dark time for the Titans the emergence of Phillip Sami in the top grade has provided the club with a shining beacon of hope with the 20-year-old revealing he chose Gold Coast over the Storm because he didn't want to move to the Sunshine Coast.
Sami's form since making his debut in Round 19 has convinced Titans officials that he has a bright future in the NRL and his contract has been upgraded to be included in the club's top 30 for the 2018 season.
It is reward for a physically gifted athlete who has had to come to terms with the work ethic required to even play in the under-20s and he delivered an eye-catching display in his first start in the centres against Canterbury last weekend.
Spotted by both the Titans and Melbourne playing in the Mal Meninga Cup for Easts Tigers in Brisbane, Sami was viewed as a long-term project but has been on an upward trend ever since joining the Titans' Holden Cup team last season where he played all 24 games and scored 11 tries.
After a season on the wing in 2016 he has spent time in the centres and at fullback this year before his NRL elevation firstly on the wing against Souths and then a shift in to centre against the Bulldogs last weekend.
Sami completed his schooling at Ipswich State High School so he could be part of their rugby league program and said when the time came to choose an NRL club the Titans' proximity to his family in Brisbane helped sway his decision.
"Jamie Mathiou when he was the [Titans] recruitment manager got a hold of my manager and I just took the opportunity with both hands and here I am," said Sami, who represented the Queensland under-20s earlier this year.
"The Storm was there but their 20s was based on the Sunshine Coast so I just came here instead.
"I wouldn't have thought that I would play one game [this year] but to play three, I'm very grateful for that.
"It's just up to me now to put my name out there and hopefully string a few more along the way."
Titans under-20s coach Ben Woolf has overseen Sami's development from raw talent to NRL calibre over the past two seasons and while recognising how much improvement is still ahead of him said he has come a long way in a short space of time.
"He's been something of a surprise packet," Woolf told NRL.com.
"He came into pre-season at the start of last year and wasn't the greatest trainer so he battled through the pre-season but he did enough to get himself a start in the trials and a spot on the wing in our 20s.
"He got better and better as the season went on and he did a bit of NRL pre-season coming into this year because we were a bit short on outside backs in the club so he probably got promoted a bit quicker than people expected.
"He was someone who was signed up probably just as a chance [of playing NRL] but he's kicked past a few blokes that were probably expected to go a bit better than him."
Like Ben Nakubuwai, Sami's elevation into the first grade squad has provided an injection of enthusiasm to a Titans team down on confidence, their energy infectious throughout the rest of the team.
"It brings confidence to the players, to Phil and to Benny, and to the team," said back-rower Joe Greenwood of their impressive performances in the NRL. "We all stick together and when they do well we all talk about having a smile on our faces.
"He's been really good actually because he's been on the left side with me. He's still a young kid and he's got loads of potential, you can see that in him.
"He's been going well these last couple of games and he'll only improve as a player.
"I reckon a few more games and you'll start to see just what a player he is."