Manly will call on Dean Whare to fill the big shoes of Steve Matai against the Dragons this Friday night, with the star centre to miss the next two rounds after pleading guilty to a grade four careless high tackle.
Whare, who is striving to cement a spot in Manly’s starting side, has been the Sea Eagles’ ‘Mr Fix-it’ this season, spending time in the centres, on the wing and at fullback.
The talented youngster today announced he had signed a two-year deal with the Panthers.
The versatile youngster has been a revelation for the Northern Beaches club, filling the void left by a number of injuries and suspensions to key players with ease.
“You get more involved and are more of a playmaker out at centre than on the wing,” Whare told NRL.com.
“I've been under Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai for the last three years and they've taught me a lot since I've been here.
“Getting more involved and being more of a leader in the team instead of sitting back too much, so communication [has been a big key].”
The Arncliffe junior is enjoying his time on the northern beaches and is hoping to cement a permanent spot in the Sea Eagles starting line-up and build a platform for his future.
“At the moment I'm just glad I'm playing,” he said.
“Coming from my debut, I only played four games that year and one last year, I've almost doubled my games so far [this season].
“At the beginning of the year I just wanted to play 10 games and I'm almost there at the moment.”
Manly coach Geoff Toovey has been impressed by the 22-year-old’s talent and said he was hopeful of keeping him at the club. But with Manly battling to keep a host of players and facing salary cap pressure, it was not guaranteed.
“We’re keen to keep him, he’s a fantastic player.” Toovey told reporters on Tuesday.
“He’s done a fantastic job in two or three positions for us this year.
“But there are a lot of other players out there that we are looking to keep, so we are working hard.”
While Whare wanted to stay at Manly, he signed a two-year deal with Penrith to further his career on Wednesday morning.
Whare will line up against his former Dragons Toyota Cup teammate, centre Kyle Stanley, when the two sides clash at Brookvale Oval.
Whare played alongside Kyle, brother Chase and Dragons prop Trent Merrin while playing Toyota Cup at St George Illawarra in 2008 and 2009, but the young star says he will be putting friendships aside on Friday night.
“I grew up supporting the Dragons and a lot of players from there,” he said.
“I'm pretty excited about the game on the weekend and can't wait to get out there.
“We usually text each other through the week and talk about the game and what he's going to do to me and what I'm going to do to him.
“Friends off the field and enemies on the field I guess they say.”