Sea Eagles hooker-turned-halfback Api Koroisau should expect not to be shunted back to reserve grade when Daly Cherry-Evans and Matt Parcell return from injury, according to Manly five-eighth Dylan Walker.
Koroisau started the season at hooker but struggled for form following a pre-season restricted badly by off-season shoulder surgery and was usurped by former Ipswich rake Matt Parcell, with coach Trent Barret sending the Fiji international back to the Intrust Super Premiership to rediscover his timing.
An injury crisis in the halves (senior man Daly Cherry-Evans sprained an ankle against the Roosters in Round 4 while both back-up playmakers Isaac John and Tim Moltzen are also injured) meant Koroisau was recalled and thrust into the No.7 jersey from Round 5 onwards with little preparation.
From that point he has shone, with two man-of-the-match awards in three outings, one of those in a losing effort against the Rabbitohs in Round 5 in his first match back in the top grade.
Walker – a close friend of Koroisau's from their premiership-winning days playing together at the Rabbitohs and now housemates at Narrabeen – says not only will Koroisau not be dropped again, he'll be pushing for Walker's starting No.6 jersey.
"He might keep me out of a spot to be honest! Api's a great player, he's shown that the past couple of weeks, it's especially good for him but whatever Trent decides, it's up to him," Walker said in response to Koroisau's immediate playing future once the other playmakers return.
"I don't know if he will go back [to reserve grade], he's been one of our standout players the past couple of weeks. Trent's one of those coaches who will reward you with good success [if you perform] and he's been playing really well so I don't think he'll be losing his spot any time soon."
Walker said he has gotten more comfortable in his own shift from Rabbitohs centre to Sea Eagles five-eighth as the season has gone on.
"Each and every week I am [feeling more comfortable], we've got a full week of training this week so we've got a lot to work on," he said.
A series of short turnarounds have limited his preparation time with Koroisau but with a huge 11-day break from Thursday's loss to the Eels through to the Anzac Day clash at Newcastle next Monday, Walker was expecting the spine to gel better.
"We've only trained about three or four times since playing with each other. This week's going to be good, we've just really got to work on our combinations," he said.
While hooker Matt Parcell is a chance of returning from a hamstring strain, Cherry-Evans is still at least another week away, while the side also faces a fresh injury drama with winger Jorge Taufua going under the knife on Monday to mend a fractured collarbone suffered against Parramatta.
"Jorge will be massive for us, he's a great winger and great coming out of our end," Walker said.
"To miss him for the next six to eight weeks is going to be massive for us but we'll have to adapt to that and we've got other great players that play wing as well and can do the job."
Early indications are that luckless former Eels and Knight Brayden Wiliame will again be recalled. The Fiji international is yet to record a win in 13 NRL games for Parramatta and Manly but has been in red-hot form for Manly's Intrust side with six tries in the past fortnight.
"He scored four the other week [in Round 6 against Wyong], he's played here before and knows the structures and the team plays so I wouldn't too surprised if Brayden came back on the wing," Walker said.