Give us time to grow: DCE on Manly's new halves combo

Daly Cherry-Evans has warned his new Manly halves combination with Josh Schuster will take time to gel and early-season miracles should not be expected.

Manly emerged as one of the big winners of the NRL pre-season, claiming the two-week tournament on points after wins over South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters following an ugly end to last season.

That joy was tempered somewhat this week with news that Schuster suffered a torn ligament in his calf.

Cooper Johns is expected to replace him in the opening-round match against Canterbury, with Schuster set to return in round three after Manly's bye.

It means Cherry-Evans, who sat out the pre-season trials, must wait longer to strike up his combination with Schuster, who takes over from departed veteran Kieran Foran.

But the skipper said it was always going to until later in the season to properly gel.

"It usually doesn't happen as quick as you would like it to happen," Cherry-Evans said.

"When Foz (Kieran Foran) came back to the club and everyone thought we were just going to go off and everything would go back to normal again.

"Then we lost our first four games.

"I'm not saying we're destined to lose our first four games, it's a good example that these things take time."

Cherry-Evans said that while Schuster would be off the field for the next three weeks, he was confident time spent together talking football could help bridge the gap.

"While he is not available for round one, when he does come back we will have had a few more weeks to work on our combination," Cherry-Evans said.

"Once the games start next weekend it will be a real easy way for us to watch what teams are doing, watch what our team is doing.

"He'll be able to help us make any adjustments we need after round one, and he'll be great."

Cherry-Evans and Schuster have lined up together in 32 games since the latter's debut in 2020.

But they have been limited to two together in the halves, with Schuster spending most of the other games on the opposite side of the field in the second row.

There, Schuster earned a reputation for playing with freedom, with his one-handed no-look passes a feature of Manly's run to the preliminary final in 2021.

Schuster has been told by new coach Anthony Seibold he should take that freedom into the halves.

"He (Seibold) just told me to play my game, just play footy," Schuster said.

"Whatever you see, just be confident and go with it.

"I played back row in juniors, it's not a big difference. I'm just a guy who loves playing footy."