Des Hasler has hailed Albert Hopoate's looming NRL debut as "one of the great sporting stories" with the teenage sensation having overcome successive ACL injuries.
Hopoate remains on an extended bench but "in the mix" for Manly's must-win clash with Melbourne, and could still start in the centres if Hasler makes a last-minute reshuffle.
The Sea Eagles had hoped to keep the 19-year-old in cotton wool this season after back-to-back knee reconstructions and no reserve grade to blood him in.
But with injuries taking their toll, the son of famous Manly winger John Hopoate has been recalled from a brief loan with Warriors and will likely become the next cab off the rank on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.
Hopoate has long been regarded as one of the best young outside backs in the game, but his knees have held him back.
He suffered a ruptured ACL in 2018, and then injured the ligament again in his comeback game last year to virtually ruin the first half of this year.
"His story is one of the great sporting stories," Hasler said.
"Perseverance and resilience. He's just a beautiful human being.
"His journey ... 810 days-plus of rehab.
"To get to a moment like this, it's synonymous with any debut in any sport.
"It's a wonderful story.
"Making a debut is a culmination of the way you train to make the NRL."
Hopoate is off contract at the end of this year but the Sea Eagles have an offer with the youngster's manager to extend his stay.
Hasler played down a social media post from John Hopoate last week against the club, unsure of the context from his former teammate.
But he said he had no concerns over how Albert Hopoate would handle his debut against the NRL's best in Melbourne, who have Cameron Smith, Cameron Munster and Jesse Bromwich returning.
"They're playing good footy but he'll just get out there and play," Hasler said.
"He's very relaxed and very set and very focused. He'll handle the occasion.
"He's making his dream debut at the Manly club."
Sunday's clash is crucial for the Sea Eagles, who now must win all their remaining games to keep their finals hopes alive.
After Melbourne they face Wests Tigers, Canterbury, Gold Coast and the Warriors, but Manly also now remain non-specific on the timeline of Tom Trbojevic's return.
"Tommy Turbo will return when he is ready. There will be no risk," Hasler said.
STATS THAT MATTER
* Des Hasler will move to equal-eighth on the list of games coached in the NRL, alongside Ron Willey.
* Melbourne have won all three of their games on the Sunshine Coast.
* The Storm have the red-zone defence in the competition, with teams taking almost 19 play-the-balls to crack their line.