Manly local Bradley Parker finally got a first-ever start in his preferred centre position for his beloved Sea Eagles last weekend and promptly scored a try in an impressive win over the Roosters; now the freshly re-signed local junior is hoping it is the start of a more consistent run in first grade.
The 20-year-old Manly Christian Brothers junior is still eligible for the NYC this year so clearly has time on his side but after four games on the wing last year plus one start on the wing and one from the bench this year, last Sunday saw him run out at centre at Lottoland after coach Trent Barrett elected to rest rookie Brian Kelly.
This week, Parker – who also just signed a two-year extension at the northern beaches club – admitted it had been a frustrating year to date after suffering a knee injury just after Christmas.
"At the start of the season I had a bad knee injury so that was quite frustrating because I thought I did have a good pre-season," he said.
"I was putting on weight, I was getting fitter then the knee injury came in but now I think I'm starting to find where I can make my way into the side."
Parker said he hurt his knee in a slightly unusual case of friendly fire.
"It was straight after Christmas break, second session back, wrestling with the boys," Parker said.
"I think it was Akuila Uate, the little guy, he got me good but I came back in Round 10 and straight into under-20s."
Parker is just trying to find his way in first grade after seemingly earning 18th man duties on an almost weekly basis.
"I don't know if I've made it yet, it's only one game I've played [at centre] but I've got to keep up my work ethic at training," he added.
Parker was originally noticed from Christian Brothers by Manly scouts when he was 15 and came through the club's Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams. As a local junior, he said it was a dream come true to now wear the maroon and white. To have played and trained alongside childhood hero Jamie Lyon last season made it even better.
"It's massive. I've grown up watching them every week, being on the hill with my family when I was younger," Parker said.
"I was a massive fan of Jamie Lyon and I actually got to train with him and play with him last year. It's just massive, I have to pinch myself sometimes."
Lyon – the epitome of the laid-back, laconic country footballer – imparted valuable advice on how to stay calm before games, which was particularly valuable for Parker, who admits to being nervous on game day.
That may be a trait coach Trent Barrett has picked up on too, with Barrett forming a habit of not letting Parker know he's in the 17 until the day before the game to keep the week-long nerves at bay.
"On the weekend I found out captain's run that I was starting, I only found out the Saturday so I didn't really have all week to think about it too much," Parker laughed.
"He said 'Park I'll start you Sunday' and I said 'yep no worries' so I only really had one night to think about it. Then I did all right Sunday so I think it's better for me!"
Parker has been named to start at centre this week but does face the prospect of 18th man Brian Kelly coming back in either this Sunday or in the coming weeks. For Parker, that is not so much a distraction as a reminder not to slacken off for a second.
"I'm ready to go whenever. Brian needed a week off, he'll probably be back soon," Parker said.
"'Baz' for me right now, he just wants me to be ready, he'll tell me at the last minute 'Brad you're playing' and I've just got to be ready. I've just got to wait for my turn and hopefully perform well."