Some wise words from retired fullback Billy Slater during the week proved the catalyst for Jahrome Hughes' man-of-the-match performance for the Melbourne Storm on Thursday night.
Slater was on hand during the week to present Hughes with his 2019 jersey and the inexperienced New Zealander made an instant impression in place of the recently retired champion with an eye-catching effort during the Storm's 22-12 victory over the Broncos at AAMI Park.
Hughes ran in the first try of the match after just three minutes and was anointed man of the match by veteran coach Craig Bellamy after the game following a number of big runs out of the Storm's defence.
Hughes revealed after the match that he was nervous days out from the season opener, but a quick chat with Slater on the eve of the game helped him settle down and focus on doing his job for his side.
"I was pretty nervous earlier in the week and Billy actually presented the jersey to me on Wednesday," Hughes said.
"He told me just to relax and do my own thing and not to put the pressure on me to be the next Billy Slater.
"I tried to do that and once I got in the game I was fine."
Match Highlights: Storm v Broncos
Hughes said he had learnt from watching teammate Brodie Croft go about his business last year, after the young halfback was thrust into the starting side to replace Cooper Cronk at the beginning of the 2018 season.
"I think it is about not trying to be the person that has left the spot open," Hughes noted.
"We have got to try and be our own person and bring our own attributes to the game.
"Billy told me to do my own thing and Bellyache (Bellamy) and the coaching staff said the same thing.
"I am just trying to work on my own strengths and bring that to every game."
Hughes knows the next challenge for him will be to produce games like that on a weekly basis as he remains aware fellow young backs Ryan Papenhuyzen and Scott Drinkwater will be snapping at his heels throughout the season.
Drinkwater looked like he would get first crack at fullback for the Storm this season, but a pec injury during a trial match handed Hughes the opportunity against the Broncos.
And now that he has the taste, Hughes is keen to hang on to the No.1 jersey for as long as he can.
"It is a magic feeling when the crowd goes up and it is the first try of the season," Hughes said.
"It was awesome and when I got the green light I was stoked.
"We really trained hard after the trials and we knew what we wanted to do going into this round one game."
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