Manly are expecting centre-turned-playmaker Dylan Walker to experience some teething problems in the No.6 jumper but are willing to invest time as they groom him as their long-term five-eighth.
Walker, recruited from South Sydney in the off-season, will have his first run as Manly five-eighth in the Sea Eagles’ final NRL pre-season match against Ipswich at Pittwater Park on Saturday night.
Coach Trent Barrett, a former representative five-eighth, said he had always considered Walker’s future to be in the halves but warned he was a work in progress.
Walker burst into grade for the Rabbitohs in 2013 as a hard-running centre despite playing a lot of his junior football as a pivot.
He had an unsuccessful three-game stint at No.6 at the start of the 2014 season before coach South Sydney Michael Maguire reverted to captain John Sutton.
The 21-year-old Walker has pleased Barrett with the way he’s adjusted to his new role at Manly.
“He’s been impressive,” Barrett said.
“I did watch him a fair bit through the juniors as a five-eighth and I did think that was his position.
“He looks comfortable there. There will be some teething problems.
We’ve had a fair bit to do with his kicking and his organisation. He’s coming along really well.”
The trial against Queensland Cup champions Ipswich will give Walker his only game alongside halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans before their season opener against Canterbury on March 4.
Walker was released from his South Sydney contract following the prescription drug scandal, allowing the Sea Eagles to swoop and pick him up a year earlier than expected.
Barrett had been in talks with Walker to come over for the 2017 season but was delighted to get him on the books a year early.
“We were just lucky that we got him a year earlier than we thought,” Barrett said.
“And Martin Taupau was the same – they were players that we identified for ’17 but circumstances fell in our lap a little.”