Cade Cust wants to use Saturday night’s All Stars game to push his cause to fill the vacant No.9 jersey at Manly this year.
The Sea Eagles remain without an experienced hooker for the start of 2021, with Manase Fainu unavailable until at least July when he faces court over an alleged stabbing.
Manly let Danny Levi go at the end of last season, with Lachlan Croker the other option to play dummy-half ahead of Cust.
But Cust will have the first chance to impress for the Indigenous All Stars on Saturday night, coming off the bench and expected to spend time at dummy-half.
“I’ve been doing a lot of No.9 training so hopefully this is a good experience for myself to get some match fitness, then play No.9 for Manly during the season,” Cust told AAP in Townsville.
“Des (Hasler) has said to me he wants me to go out and play hooker under Laurie (Daley) and that’s what I’ve been brought into the Indigenous team to do.”
There had been some suggestion before the preseason that Kieran Foran could also be an option at hooker, but it’s understood that won’t be the case.
Cust himself still lists the halves as his preferred position, having come through the grades as a playmaker.
He played eight games at five-eighth last year, earning him a new contract, but with his speed could provide spark and quick balls out of dummy-half.
“Talking with Des after changing from the halves to dummy half, what I’d like to provide for the team is good service out of the ruck,” Cust said.
“On top of that, my fitness this year is important.
“Being around the ruck and playing more up tempo at 9 means I have to be fit and provide good service for the team as well as good defence,” he said.
If he does shift to hooker fulltime, the 22-year-old can at least see advantages in moving from the halves with the need to be vocal and direct play.
“Being in my position you have to lead the boys around the paddock and that’s one part of my game I’m pretty good at, I like doing it.”
“Being in the Indigenous camp is good because I can work with other members of the leadership group and bring that experience back with me to Manly.”