After being cut by St George-Illawarra at the end of the 2018 season, 22-year-old Hame Sele was in limbo for a few months before he received a phone call from Panthers boss Phil Gould offering him a career lifeline.
“That call from Gus was life changing,” Sele told the Weekender.
“I found out I was coming to Penrith mid-way through pre-season, it was a life changer for me.”
With his daughter nearing her first birthday, the versatile forward said securing a new deal at another NRL club was the number one thing on his agenda.
“The only thing on my mind was what I was going to do to provide for her and once I got that call it was like lights flashing at me saying ‘take it’,” he said.
“A few months on and I’m really enjoying myself here, the boys have brought me in and made me feel right at home. I’m fitting in well and getting along with everyone.”
After only playing a handful of games at the Dragons last season, Sele has so far featured in every single game for the Panthers in 2019, despite many predicting he wouldn’t be in the top 17.
The one-time City Origin representative said he’s enjoying his expanded role at the foot of the Mountains.
“I didn’t play many minutes at the Dragons but when I first started here I was shocked that I was able to punch out a fair few minutes – I actually impressed myself,” Sele admitted.
“As the weeks go on I’m continuing to get better. The coach gives me feedback and wants me to work on little things each week. I’m really happy playing all these minutes.”
Sele has once again been named in coach Ivan Cleary’s side for Friday’s Round 5 clash against the winless Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium.
While the Titans have a decent looking side on paper, they haven’t managed to secure a win despite inching closer and closer each week. Sele knows it’s a danger game given how desperate the Titans are.
“It’s going to be a tough one playing them in their home town in front of their fans,” Sele said.
“I expect them to come out really strong this week.
“We are really looking forward to the challenge this week up in the GC.”
With Sele signed until the end of the current season (plus a team option in 2020), the Kingsgrove Colts junior is hoping some strong performances in the next few weeks and months will earn him a contract extension – something he desperately wants especially considering he has another baby on the way.
“Since I’ve arrived here I have loved the club, so hopefully I get an extension,” Sele said.
“There’s been no talks as yet but I just have to do my best each week and hopefully impress the staff.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.