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Had Lachlan Fitzgibbon followed his school mates overseas, it's highly unlikely he'd be a Newcastle Knight.

It was 2015 and his football career was at a crossroads.

Either he fully commits, or he looks elsewhere.

It was a big call for a 20-year-old to make.

Especially when his friends had organised to head to America on exchange and study abroad.

"I sort of dropped off a bit and wasn't really sure where I was going with my footy until I made the squad in SG Ball and transitioned into the 20s," Fitzgibbon said.

"I'd planned to maybe go overseas and live in America for a semester.

"I was in touch with a couple of coaches there. (Rick Stone) was the coach (of the Knights) at the time and asked me if I wanted to do a pre-season.

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"It was a pretty big thing. I was genuinely weighing up my options. I got to the stage where I'd spoken to a few people and they said you don't want to be looking back on this time and asking, 'what if?'."

Promised nothing more than a train and trial deal, the backrower had impressed enough to secure a one-year contract.

Having made the decision to focus solely on rugby league, the edge started the 2015 season in NSW Cup and finished the year with his first-grade debut.

Stone had moved on from the Club and Danny Buderus had come in as interim coach.

Fitzgibbon had previously been 18th man for a number of weeks but Buderus was in search of a way to fire his struggling team up.

So, in Round 21 against St George Illawarra, Fitzgibbon and Nathan Ross were welcomed into the top grade.

"It was a difficult situation for Lachie to make his debut in," Buderus recalled.

"It was a difficult time. They had a caretaker coach in myself but I wanted to change things up. He and Nathan Ross were two players I looked at who had characteristics that could get the team firing a little bit.

"They were pretty passionate about being a good teammate."

While Fitzgibbon had arrived in the NRL, there was still plenty of questions marks around whether he would make it long term.

Privately, many questioned his toughness and to play through pain.

It's something he acknowledges and overcame.

"There were times when I was younger where there was probably question marks over my mentality and toughness," Fitzgibbon said.

"It's a barrier you have to overcome to be able to play NRL football and not only play but play consistently.

"It's something I continues to work towards to get better at."