Albury Thunder has continued its rebuild by snaring promising halfback Paul Karaitiana.
The 21-year-old is the nephew of two-time Thunder premiership player and popular club stalwart Tommy Gemmell.
"He's a cool, calm and collected player, he never gets overawed or fired up," Gemmell explained.
Karaitiana had been contracted to NRL club Canterbury-Bankstown for the past three years and was part of the club's development players last season.
Every club is allowed six development players outside of their top 30 contracted players and they train full-time with the NRL squad.
However, many of the players who weren't playing NRL had their progress stymied over the past two years due to COVID as lower level competitions often didn't proceed.
"I was looking at going back to Queensland to play Q Cup but with all that's happening with COVID, I thought I'd be better coming down here to work with Tommy, I'm loving it," he suggested.
Gemmell owns a concreting business.
Karaitiana was born in New Zealand, but moved to Australia as a child.
He attended one of the sport's strongest rugby league nurseries in Keebra Park State High School on the Gold Coast.
The 87kg Karaitiana scored a try in Keebra Park's win over another rugby league nursery in Westfields Sports High to claim the 2017 Schoolboy National Championship.
He played alongside NRL 'wrecking ball' and Gold Coast Titan-Queensland back-rower David Fifita and is great mates with the powerhouse.
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Keebra Park's most famous student is former NRL superstar Benji Marshall and just like the gifted wizard, Karaitiana also boasts a touch background, representing Australia at under 18 level against New Zealand.
"That touch background helps you find players and help put them into holes," he offered.
Players with a touch background often have dazzling attacking skills and the Thunder's latest recruit is set to thrill the supporter base.
"He's got great footwork and great vision," Gemmell enthused.
"He's the type of player who likes to play off the cuff, play what he sees, he'll make a call and go with it and trust his own instincts."
One of the criticisms of rugby league in recent years, particularly at the elite level, is too many playmakers lack the ability to play unstructured football.
It means some clubs lack variety and are therefore much easier to defend against, but Karaitiana's 'natural' flamboyance should hand the Thunder an advantage over many clubs.
However, it can be difficult for halves to hold their nerve when the pressure is on to play a more conservative style and the talented youngster admits he needs to work on his playmaking.
"I probably need to be more confident in my calling of plays, I'm probably just a little bit more chilled," he admitted.
"I still have NRL aspirations, especially seeing my mates make it, like David Fifita."
It's been a good week for the Thunder after it signed Jackins Olam, the older brother of Melbourne Storm premiership player and Papua New Guinea representative Justin.
The Thunder posted only three wins last season and that was coming off 2020 where the club didn't play at all due to COVID restrictions.
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