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Gibson-Park in fast lane with the Blues

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Sportal.co.nz     01 Nov 2012     Getty Images

First off on Monday he was named in the Maori All Blacks for their British tour and on Wednesday he was added to the Blues squad for the 2013 season.

Not bad for a 20-year-old who started the season as one of four halfbacks vying for Taranaki honours.

There is an element of 'Who?' about Gibson-Park. For many he first came to light during the ITM Cup season in Taranaki's game against Auckland at Eden Park.

With Taranaki getting a hammering, he was introduced into the game midway through the second half and immediately set about lifting his side on the comeback trail in the game, scoring a try himself with a feisty performance.

Sportal, in their match report, noted: "Taranaki had some impressive performers of their own, none moreso than replacement halfback Jamison Gibson-Park providing a lively performance from the base of rucks and mauls scoring a deserved try which gave his side a bonus point and a minute later he slipped a superbly weighted kick into the corner for wing Jackson Ormond to score."

Little wonder that coach Colin Cooper when asked about him after the game said: "You'll hear a lot more about him."

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan and his coaching panel obviously thought so too.

Kirwan was immediately impressed with his ability to change the game when he came on.

"We did some research, spoke to Colin Cooper and stuff like that and he just kept getting better. So then you keep doing the research on him," Kirwan told Sportal on Wednesday.

The Chiefs had tied up three of the best halfbacks in the country and it had been a case of looking for who was next, he said.

As a result, the Blues ended up with Bryn Hall, who was a member of the New Zealand Under-20 team, and Gibson-Park who just missed out on selection for that side.

"He's just an excitement machine, imagine a tight game and bringing him on late?"

Kirwan was enthusiastic about the way halfback play had changed in the past 12 months and felt both Hall and Gibson-Park were significant runners and passers who could help the side.

So far as explaining his development, Gibson-Park said he had 'massive' ties with Auckland having been born there and spending the first 10 years of his life on Great Barrier Island. From there he moved to Gisborne Boys' High School where he got picked up out of school by the Taranaki Academy where he moved at the start of 2011 and has been there since.

He trialled for the NZ U-21 team this year and was disappointed to miss out but put his efforts into the Taranaki side. While Super Rugby was on his future agenda, he wasn't expecting it quite so quickly. And the off-shoot of selection had been the need to make some decisions, and quickly.

"It worked out quite well for me, I ended up getting more game time than I expected and I got these deals which is awesome," he said.

"That game against Auckland could have been pretty big for me because I did hear that JK [Kirwan], Ted [Sir Graham Henry] and Gordon Tietjens were there but I don't how far that went into getting me here. I felt it was one of my stronger games during the season," he said.

Having seen Aaron Smith introduced into the All Blacks and making a significant contribution with his running, passing game, was big for Gibson-Park who took inspiration from the change that heralded in halfback play overall.

"He was out there doing it for us smaller guys and showing that you don't have to be a big halfback to make it to the top level these days," he said.

Realising when he left school that at 67kgs he wasn't likely to make it, he boosted himself to 80kgs at the moment and there was more to come, he said.

It had been a big transition to put on the weight but he was confident it had not been at the expense of his speed. All the tests had shown the speed had been retained.

The immediate focus was the Maori All Blacks tour, however, and learning some good things from the quality of players around him.

Chances are Gibson-Park will not be an unknown for too much longer.