Joey Manu has labelled his teenage Sydney Roosters teammate Joseph Suaalii a "freak", saying he can be a great of the game.
The 18-year-old was key to their Magic Round victory over a pumped-up Parramatta, who the week previously had handed Penrith their first loss of the season.
The Roosters line up at the SCG on Saturday night against the Panthers, who rebounded with a thumping win over fellow premiership hopes Melbourne.
They will be without enforcer Victor Radley who is set to have ankle surgery.
Playing his 10th NRL game - five last year before a foot injury ended his season - Suaalii scored two tries with one a spectacular effort, climbing over the top of Parramatta winger Hayze Perham.
Playing on the right wing outside two-time premiership centre Manu, the pair have combined for six tries.
"He doesn't surprise me," Manu, who's enjoying having a front row seat to Suaalii's athleticism, said on Tuesday.
"You see some of the things he does at training, he's a freak.
"It was pretty cool to see that try he scored on the weekend being right next to him."
Manu said it wasn't just the flashy tries that impressed him, adding Suaalii was ultra-competitive on and off the field.
"Those little things that people probably don't see; those tough carries that he does ... he's got the skills and he's competitive.
"He can be anything he wants as he has the work ethic - he works hard and listens to all the coaches and the boys.
"He obviously has a lot of years ahead of him and he can do those flash things but he can do the tough things too."
With the Roosters sitting in fourth spot their meeting with the champion Panthers couldn't have come at a better time.
They have found some form after a shock round-eight loss to last-placed Canterbury.
"They're probably the best team in the comp at the moment but for us we want to work on ourselves," 25-year-old Manu said.
"We had a good game last week and we want to build on the back of that."
Meanwhile Roosters skipper James Tedesco says Radley's injury is a big blow to the side with the lock also set to miss a chance at his NSW State of Origin debut.
"He's massive for our spine - he's that ball-playing lock and he's a leader in the middle so he can do it all so it's a hole to fill," Tedesco said.
"I know he's disappointed as he had a big chance of playing for NSW but that's footy."
Tedesco said the Panthers would be confident coming off their biggest-ever win over the Storm.
"I've watched a bit of them all year and they're just really consistent ... they stay in the arm wrestle for the whole 80 minutes," Tedesco said.
"We can't give them any chances - our discipline and ball control has to be pretty high to put ourselves in the position to win the game.
"We definitely have to be at our best to beat them."
Australian Associated Press
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