MICHAEL Moloney grew up playing Aussie Rules in South Australia before turning to rugby and Hunter Wildfires coach Scott Coleman will be banking on the kicking game of the blue-chip recruit against Manly at Manly Oval on Saturday.
Moloney, a rangy fly-half, is one of three changes to the backline from the 59-10 defeat to Sydney University.
Brendan Holliday is out with a minor quad strain, while Chad Northcott and Taulogo Lalaga return.
Moloney played second grade against Sydney University last round after completing 14 days in quarantine following his return from Canada.
The 25-year-old started for the Melbourne Rising in the opening two games of the National Rugby Championships last year.
"He seems really calm and collected," Coleman said. "He stands a bit flatter and brings blokes onto the ball."
The Wildfires' kicking game has been hit and miss in the opening three rounds of the Shute Shield. It was poor against Randwick in the season opener, was much better in the loss to Eastwood at home, before dipping against Sydney University.
"It's certainly an area we can improve," Coleman said. "Mike played AFL as a kid and has a bit more time than the others. His touch finders are accurate and he gets a bit of distance, which is one of the most pleasing things."
Connor Mulhearn makes way for Moloney.
"Connor will be better for the experience," the coach said. "He got a little bit overawed by the speed of the game against Uni. He is only 21 and will get better. He will go back to second grade. He needs time in the saddle and then will sit on the bench for firsts."
Inside centre Lalaga has recovered from a hamstring issue and will come in for Pernell Filipo if he gets through a full week of training.
"T (Lalaga) was very good before his injury," Coleman said. "We will see how he pulls up after training. He give us a lot more talk."
Tighthead prop Nick Dobson, who has a severe cork, is the only likely change to the pack. Fellow Kiwi Daniel Davis is on standby.
"Manly are a similar side to Eastwood," Coleman said. "They play a forward-orientated game but also have some speed out wide. We have to turn up ready to go. I was happy with the way we stayed in fight against Uni, but we have be at full pace from the start."
Melbourne arrivals, back-rower George Osi Noa and 200cm-lock Jeremy Burrill, have finished self solation and are awaiting COVID-19 tests to come back.
They will train Thursday and play off the bench in second grade. In a further boost, two-time Anderson Medal-winner Carl Manu has started training is also set to play seconds.
Wildfires: 1 Dave Puchert, 2 Phil Bradford, 3 Nick Dobson, 4 Adam Edwards (c), 5 Seva Rokobaro, 6 Sitiveni Waqa, 7 Shawn Ingle, 8 Ben Ham, 9 Mahe Fangupo, 10 Michael Maloney, 11 Rob Buserau, 12 Taulogo Lalaga, 13 Hayden Cole, 14 Nimi Qio, 15 Chad Northcott