A pre-season promise from new coach Adam O'Brien has helped former utility Kurt Mann emerge as one of the form five-eighths of the NRL.
O'Brien coached Mann when he was an assistant at the Storm and Mann was emerging from the Melbourne under-20s into first grade.
Through six seasons and over 100 games for the Storm, Dragons and Knights, the now-27-year-old showed plenty of promise as he was shuffled between fullback, wing, centre, hooker, halves and the bench but has not been given an extended run in one position since his first full year of NRL as a Storm centre in 2015.
That all changed when he was reunited with O'Brien in the Hunter.
"I sat down with Ads at the start of pre-season and he said he wasn't going to move me," Mann said after yet another strong performance in a convincing win over Brisbane in round six.
"He stayed true to that which is good. It's allowed me to build combinations with Junior (Mitchell Pearce), KP (Kalyn Ponga) and Macca (Andrew McCullough).
Mann finds space on the left
"Ads is a great coach, he simplifies everything.
"He's probably the best coach I've had, he's simplified my game and made my role real easy. He's shown a lot of confidence in me and given me that job so it's really good to play some good footy for him."
Mann said his utility value had been both a blessing and a curse, providing opportunities he might not otherwise have had to get into first grade but denying him the chance to really nail down one position.
"I've always wanted to play one position and I've always felt five-eighth is probably my best position," he said.
"The style the game has gone down now, it's more the ball-running halves is what works well now so it kind of suits me. Adam's been really good for me, [telling me] he was going to stick with me in one position and give me a decent crack at it and it's worked out well for me."
O'Brien had plenty of praise for his playmaker too.
"I coached Kurt in Melbourne; I knew he was a good runner of the football and hard to tackle when he runs the ball," O'Brien said.
"Looking at our team … even before the rules changed, we didn't need someone to be the greatest ballplayer that ever lived, we just needed someone to complement Kalyn and Junior."
Mann added another try and try assist on Thursday against the Broncos, with five assists now for the season and better than 100 metres per game and almost three tackle busts per game from his dangerous running game.
Mann threads the needle for Hunt
He went off early against Brisbane due to hamstring tightness having also managed an ankle injury in recent weeks and was looking forward to a long turnaround into round eight to rest the body.
"It wasn't too bad; hopefully my hammy pulls up a bit better, we'll see how it goes," he said.
"I had my ankle against Canberra, there was a little tweak of it last week (in round six against Melbourne). We have a real good physio team here, they've managed that really well to get me through these two games.
"I'm really looking forward to this long turnaround now so I can really look after it and hopefully have it 100% by the time I get back. The hammy I don't think is anything serious, it was just more tightness. My hip and back was pretty tight at the start of the game, it was more precautionary to take me off."