Suddenly Des has selection dramas of the good kind

Manly coach Des Hasler has gone from plugging holes in his NRL side to selection headaches on who to leave out.

Let's take centre to start with.

Dylan Walker's five-month fight to clear his name over domestic violence charges brought Moses Suli into right centre and Brad Parker from the wing into left centre.

Now with Walker back, and once Suli's fractured finger has healed, is Parker the victim of natural attrition – even though he's had three line breaks, 31 tackle busts and two try assists in his 10 games this year?

Normally centres can also play wing but Jorge Taufua and Reuben Garrick are in no danger of losing their spot patrolling the sidelines.  

"I think he's done everything he could to cement that spot as his own," Taufua told NRL.com of Parker.

"Me and him have got our own little combo there on the left. I was thinking about this when Walks came back into the side ... what would happen.

"Parks could play back row if he had to because his defence has been one of the strong points of his game. I'm very confident with him inside me on our edge.

"It's a good problem to have I guess for Des… because we'd also miss that big body of Moses punching through that line."

And then there is the halves dilemma.

Daly Cherry-Evans goes down with a syndesmosis injury, and Kane Elgey, Lachlan Croker and now Cade Cust step into the frame.

And although Tom Trbojevic will certainly go straight to No.1 after his hamstrings are strong enough, Brendan Elliot has been playing well enough at fullback, and knows the back-five systems, that you would hope to keep him in the centres or wings.

See above for why that won't be happening.

"Losing Chez [Cherry-Evans] and Turbo [Trbojevic] really hurts our team as they are in two such key positions and they are two such great players," said prop Addin Fonua-Blake.

"But the guys coming in, filling in, are doing a great job and don't look out of place.

"We had young Cade Cust last weekend and he actually put his body in front of everyone.

"He has a good story behind him in where he came from and how he got to first grade. It makes it a bit more special to win with guys like that.

"That's what Des does with the young boys – gets them training really hard, doing little extras on their game – so they are ready for their shot in the NRL.

"Cade slotted straight in and did a great job. We're all proud of him."

Cust has had three years in Manly's system, has a mum and grandparents willing to make the eight hour-round trip from Scone to Sydney each weekend to watch him play – he lost his dad at age 14 – and learned a heap of skills living for three months under Matty Johns's roof.

Manly five-eighth Cade Cust.
Manly five-eighth Cade Cust. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Cust was magnificent against the Sharks in Manly's 24-14 win, but Elgey has been doing a great impression of Cherry-Evans' organising skills.

And the 25-year-old faces his old team the Titans for the first time this weekend, when Manly hosts Gold Coast at Lottoland on Friday night.

"He should be up for that. If he's not getting up for that then there's something wrong," back-rower Joel Thompson told NRL.com with a smile.  "Look he'll be right. He's been firing so well.

"I'm really happy for Cade too though. Hearing about his story and his long travels to play footy with Manly, that's good to see him take up the challenge of NRL, grab it and really do well with it.

"He's a good kid and we're all really glad that others can see that now."

Cust played No.6 against the Sharks but was the No.7 in Manly's premiership-winning Holden Cup team of 2017 – the final year of the competition.

"I think Chez is starting off the bench when he comes back," Thompson said laughing.

"Look it's always good seeing someone get their chance, coming in and playing so well."