ALBURY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Cooper Johns of the Storm offloads the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Albury Tigers Club on May 07, 2020 in Albury, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Manly halfback Cooper Johns has spoken out about the effect of returning home ahead of his likely club debut in Round 1 against the Bulldogs.

The door has opened for Johns to wear the six jersey after Josh Schuster was ruled out of the opening round with a calf injury in last week's trial match with the Roosters.

While Schuster is due to return in Round 3 after a bye for the Sea Eagles, there are significant questions over his fitness and ability to shift to the halves after a 2022 season which was poor in plenty of aspects for the boom youngster.

Johns made 11 appearances for the NRL for the Melbourne Storm before it was announced last September that the club would not be renewing his contract.

The 23-year-old has now joined Manly on a train and trial deal, which the club have committed to upgrading as soon as the salary cap for 2023 is confirmed.

Johns told that he is a lot happier at Manly, and believes he is performing better as a result.

“A lot of things probably changed in my life that [meant] I was a lot happier off the field [in the last six to eight months],” Johns said.

“I think that's ultimately led to me performing better and just being better around the group, and just bringing a lot more energy around the group.

"Something I've learned about myself is when I'm happy off the field it's really evident in my football, and I am really enjoying my football.

"That's probably been the biggest difference for me.

“I wouldn't say I wasn't happy off the field [in Melbourne], it's just I had some things that probably brought me down a little bit, probably made me not enjoy my football as such in previous years, which [meant] probably when I did get my chances in first grade down in Melbourne I wasn't taking them with both hands.”

Some have called for Johns to be parachuted into Manly's 17 regardless of Schuster's fitness given his form during the pre-season challenge, which saw him lead the Sea Eagles to the $100,000 cash prize that was on offer for the first time under an innovative new ladder scoring system.

Regardless of whether Schuster or Johns play, it's clear they will be under the pump to perform alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, who will attempt to drag the Sea Eagles out of the bottom half of the table following a disastrous finish to 2022 which saw a seven-match losing streak.