Rookie Manly five-eighth Lachlan Croker has passed his first major on-field test, impressing coach Trent Barrett in the Sea Eagles' last pre-season NRL trial.
Croker, 21, ran out in Manly colours for the first time in Saturday night's 28-26 loss to the Sydney Roosters on the Central Coast.
A one-time talented Canberra junior, Barrett has made no secret of the fact he expects Croker to fill the shoes of Blake Green, who headed to the Warriors late last year.
Croker had plenty of touches early on Saturday night as the Sea Eagles ran out to a 16-0 lead before the Roosters had touched the ball in the first 10 minutes, and appeared solid alongside halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.
"I thought they were good," Barrett said.
"I thought Crokes and Cherry and Tom (Trbojevic) and Api (Koroisau) were particularly good.
"Particularly at the start, it's not always easy when you do get a lot of good ball at the start of the game and it's the first time they've played together. It's encouraging"
The development of Croker will be critical to Manly's hopes in 2018.
Two seasons ago they struggled without an established five-eighth for Cherry-Evans, but are now a different side given the ball-playing abilities of Koroisau, Curtis Sironen and Jake and Tom Trbojevic.
Croker also took on his share of kicking duties close to the tryline on Saturday night, and took the ball to the line on occasions even after being rattled late by Roosters enforcer Zane Tetevano.
Cherry-Evans appears set to be handed another responsibility this season, with Barrett indicating the captain will likely kick goals for the club.
The Queenslander kicked three from four against the Roosters on Saturday night, and could be the Sea Eagles' first-choice goalkicker for the first time since his rookie year in 2011.
Injured centre Dylan Walker filled the role at the start of last year before vacating it midway through the season for Matt Wright, who was unable to kick on Saturday night due to a slight groin injury.
Even if Wright is able to be nab the kicking duties back off Cherry-Evans, he will likely be fighting with Brian Kelly to keep his spot in Manly's starting side upon Walker's return from shoulder and leg injury in April.
"It's looking likely (that Cherry-Evans will kick)," Barrett said.
"Matty is still kicking very well but he hurt his groin in the last week. They're both there but I thought Cherry kicked very well."