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‘He’s a good role model’: Shibasaki praises Hunt’s influence

On the verge of making his debut for the nib Newcastle Knights this Saturday, new outside back Gehamat Shibasaki pointed out a man who’s helped him grab hold of a hotly contested centre position ahead of Round One.

Hymel Hunt has spent most of his career playing in the centres but this year is looking to transition into an out-and-out winger.

Shibasaki will Saturday afternoon playing on the inside of Hunt for the first time in the NRL and the young man from Townsville admitted the winger has already made a significant impact in developing his game since arriving to Newcastle.

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“He’s a real big help,” Shibasaki said.

“He’s really experienced and him playing centre all last year has really helped me out as well. He’s got my back.

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“We’ve been trying to work a good combination. I feel like we’ve got something good happening there.

“He’s a good role model.”

Over the other side of the field, another player Shibasaki has had plenty of familiarity with is that of his childhood friend, Enari Tuala, who also dons the red and blue for the first time this weekend.

Tuala made the move from North Queensland earlier in the year and has not only secured himself another year on his contract, but also the other centre position for Round One.

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It’ll be the first time the two play alongside one another in the NRL but although Shibasaki is thrilled, he recognises what it’s going to take to keep their spots.

“He really deserves for all the hard work he’s done,” he said regarding Tuala.

“From growing up in Townsville and now he’s beside me playing NRL. That’s mad.

“The Round One team will not be the same team towards the backend of the season, so both need to keep working hard. There’s always room for improvement. Trying to keep that spot is our main priority.

“I came down here with some confidence of playing NRL and with the goal of playing consistent NRL but that’s not case here. There’s just as much strong competition here as there was back in Brisbane.”

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While Shibasaki made his NRL debut back in 2018, the former Bronco admitted he was just as excited now as he was then.

Despite all that though, he’s still focused on what he needed to do to make sure his Knights debut is a memorable one.  

“It’s the same feeling as when I made my NRL debut,” he said.

“New club, new beginnings.

“We’ve looked at some of the Warriors boys. There’re some big strong boys, but our main focus is to focus on our defence.

“That was the main focus throughout the whole pre-season; our defence.

“I’m excited and pumped.”