How Fainu turned himself from a half to a hooker

Manly's Manase Fainu didn't know how to tackle properly when he was asked to move from the halves into hooker.

The Sea Eagles' then under-20s coach Wayne Lambkin saw something in the Fairfield United junior and put him in the No.9 jumper.

In 2017 the Sea Eagles won the NYC premiership against the Eels with Fainu as hooker and captain.

"I didn't like tackling much so I wasn't too fussed about it. But I'm used to tackling now and I actually love it," Fainu told NRL.com.

"I had a lot of head knocks in the 20s because I didn't know how to tackle properly. My head was going all over the place. But now I know how to do it much better."

He credits that increasing knowledge and better technique to Manly's NRL defensive coach John Cartwright and his three partners in the middle – props Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau and lock Jake Trbojevic.

"Carty has been great telling me where to stand, how to save energy, look after myself a bit. And then I get to work with Marty, Addin and Jakey so what's not to like about tackling," Fainu said.

"They've helped me out a lot."

Cartwright said the softly-spoken 20-year-old was easy to teach.

"…Because he's eager to learn. He's in the toughest position on the field you can play and he got thrown in there last year through necessity," Cartwright told NRL.com.

"It was probably a good thing in the end as he had to learn the hard way. The team was struggling for a bit of form, as we had a lot of injuries.

"So that gave him a good grounding for this year."

As for teaching Fainu the nuances of being a great rake, "duck to water" Cartwright says.

"It's a little different from defending on the edge to defending in the middle," he said.

"The biggest thing is that you've got to be willing to put your head in there and he's certainly willing.

"Whenever they're not afraid to put their head on the line, there's something good to work with."

Fainu gets to play against a hooker he admires greatly in Canberra's Josh Hodgson when the Raiders host the Sea Eagles at GIO Stadium on Sunday.

"I love watching him play because he's a real threat to every team, no matter how they try to shut him down. His kicking game and his running game are really good too," Fainu said.

"I love going up against players like him, Damien Cook and Cameron Smith. They show me where I am and what I need to work on."

Well not much it seems when it comes to scoring tries. Hodgson has one four-pointer for the year, Smith and Cook have two, Cameron McInnes three and Issac Luke four. Fainu tops the list with five.

"I got lucky. It just shows I like to support my teammates after they've done the work," Fainu said.

But Cartwright says it's no fluke.

"He's one of those rare players with speed off the mark, good feel for the game, he's understanding his role as hooker and getting better and better each week.

"He can do things on his own too – that's the beauty with him. You get No.9s who can give really good service but Manase can create and make space on his own."

He might be playing on his own soon. The rumour mill has his hooking partner Api Koroisau talking with other clubs in a bid to ease Manly's salary cap position.

"I'd love Api to stay. I've been learning a lot from him," Fainue says. "I really don't want to see him go – hopefully he stays."