When Kumuls hooker Edwin Ipape found himself at a crossroads at the end of 2021, it was Adrian Lam who gave him the direction he needed to put his career back on track.
Ipape had just been shown the door by PNG Hunters for failing to meet the club's standards and values, his Queensland Cup career on the rocks after just one season.
Lam, meanwhile, had been handed the reins as Leigh Centurions coach for 2022 after three seasons at the helm of English giants Wigan and two World Cups as Kumuls mentor in 2008 and 2013.
With Lam seeking to return Leigh to Super League and Ipape seeking redemption, the pair joined forces in a memorable 2022 season that culminated in a thumping 44-12 win over Batley in the second division grand final to send the now rebranded Leopards back to the top flight.
Ipape bagged 23 tries in 27 games and was voted Championship Player of the Year before representing his country in four Test matches at the World Cup and making the team of the tournament alongside such luminaries as Joey Manu, Stephen Crichton, Josh Addo-Carr and Cameron Murray.
Come 2023 and the fairytale continued as Leigh claimed their first Challenge Cup title since 1971 with an epic 17-16 victory over Hull KR, the match-winning field goal nailed by Adrian's son Lachlan in their very own Ivan and Nathan Cleary moment.
"I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity in the UK in 2022 after I left the Hunters," Ipape told media ahead Sunday's Pacific Championships clash with Fiji Bati.
Kumuls hit the training paddock ahead of Fiji clash
"Lammy is a big part of my development over the past two seasons. He has kept me accountable and he tells it to me straight.
"It's not just my footy but off the field stuff. I have matured along the way on my journey with him.
"I was very lucky to get that opportunity to go and play under him and he has made me a more mature player and person."
Now 24 and with seven Test matches to his name, Ipape is champing at the bit for Sunday's game after missing the Kumuls' win over Cook Islands in week one due to suspension.
Having downed Wales and Cook Islands to progress to the quarter-final stage of the World Cup, the Kumuls are looking to build on that momentum with a repeat of their 2022 over the Bati during the mid-season internationals in 2022.
"The Kumuls jumper means everything. It's the pinnacle of rugby league in PNG," Ipape said.
Ipape's brilliant Kumuls performance
"Every time I get to wear the jersey I take it as my first time, I don’t take it for granted.
"I love coming into camp and seeing the boys get an opportunity to play for the Kumuls and we all learn from each other.
"When the Hunters kicked me out and said I wasn’t up to their standards, that drove me, that was my motivation to do better.
"I knew I had a lot to offer and I wanted to help put PNG on the rugby league map, to make the people proud."
Match: PNG Kumuls v Fiji Bati
Week 3 -
Venue: Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby
Main photo: Roan Paul