The moment Sami knew he belonged at the Titans
Gold Coast Titans hat-trick hero Phillip Sami was worried he wouldn't get a spot in the side at the start of pre-season until coach Garth Brennan extended and upgraded his contract until the end of 2020.
It was at that moment the 20-year-old winger felt like he belonged. His three-try effort against the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night showcased the class Brennan had identified.
Sami, who played four Telstra Premiership games in 2017, knew there were some quality outside backs in the contest for a wing spot and didn't think he would play round one with Brendan Elliot, Brenko Lee and Tyronne Robert-Davis in the mix.
"When I heard that Garth wanted to extended my contract I thought that he obviously believes I can do something at this club," Sami said.
"Then round one started and there were injuries to Brenko Lee and Brendan Elliott and he sat down with me and said 'you are not in this team because of those injuries. You were always in my team'. That really gave me a big confidence boost.
"My goal in the pre-season was to work hard and show Garth I was capable of playing first grade and he gave me a crack and I am grateful for that. Hopefully, I can cement my spot on the left wing for the rest of the year."
Brennan said his decision to keep Sami at the club had several elements to it.
"Part of my portfolio and vision for the club when I came here was to lock up our good kids like Phillip Sami and we also extended and upgraded front-rower Moeaki Fotuaika," Brennan told NRL.com
"We want to build this club around young guys like Phillip and not lose them like the Gold Coast has in the past."
Sami, a Goodna Eagles junior who represented the Queensland under 20s last year, also set up a try with a cross-field bomb against the Broncos and showcased all the skills a modern winger to vindicate Brennan's decision.
"Another reason why we extended him in the pre-season was because he really stood up with his energy, his enthusiasm and his willingness to learn," Brennan said.
"He's brave and he carries the ball back really strong and they are the things I look for in outside backs.
"Phillip got a taste of first grade last year and that just fuelled the fire for him in the pre-season and is why he came out and trained the way he did.
"He wasn't thrown into the side because there was an injury. He was thrown in because he was the standout in pre-season."
Sami came through the Titans under 20s system after being scouted while playing for Easts Tigers in the Mal Meninga Cup when he also had some interest from Melbourne.
"I came to the Gold Coast Titans because I thought there was more opportunity to me to play NRL and I am very grateful that I did," Sami said.
"My family wasn't happy with my decision because they wanted me to go to the Melbourne Storm but my mum said 'do what makes you happy'."
Sami, who has a goal to make 15 or more carries each game he plays, had the best game of his short career against the Broncos and certainly remains happy with his decision to choose the Titans.
"As a young kid, playing at Suncorp in front of a packed house is something I've always dreamed of, " he said.
"To get the hat-trick is something I never thought I would do."