Parramatta young gun Haze Dunster has tipped new recruit Tom Opacic to man the highly contended vacancy at centre left by banned veteran Michael Jennings – who is currently suspended by the league following a positive drug test in October.
Opacic joined the Eels along with Isaiah Papali’i and Joey Lussick the same month after the 26-year-old was cut from North Queensland at the end of the 2020 season.
Both Dunster and Opacic firm as suitable replacements for the absent veteran, with the former revealing to The Daily Telegraph that he has been running a position wider while Opacic has been manning centre.
“Yep [he’s likely to play in round one], Tom has been training at centre,” Dunster said.
“On the weekend against the Dragons he scored a nice try and ran a nice line off Will Smith, he finished that off real nice.
“He makes some good defensive reads.
“I don’t think there is going to be much of a gap between Jenko [Jennings] and Tom. He’s going to fit in there real well.”
Dunster revealed he has since started his pre-season as a flyer under coach Brad Arthur, but will be hoping to contend for a centre’s jumper when possible.
“I’ve been training on the wing. I hope to move into the centres eventually but for now I just want to perfect my craft and get more game time and if that is on the wing then I am happy to do that.
“But when the opportunity comes up, I’ll be putting my hand up.”
Jennings was suspended by the league under their anti-doping policy in October after returning a positive A-sample for Ligandrol and Ibutamoren, with both substances registered as prohibited under the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The 32-year-old consequently missed the Eels’ semi-final clash against the Rabbitohs, with Dunster being a late inclusion for Arthur’s side and earning his NRL debut.