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Forbes to the fast lane: Why Mansour made way for Staines

For a quiet kid who won't use two words when one will do, Charlie Staines has got a headline or two in him.

Hailing from a sleepy country town, the rising Panthers prodigy has been stuck in the fast lane since a stunning four-try NRL debut last July.

A 2am bout of lock jaw that took two minutes to fix, followed by two weeks in quarantine afterwards.

Big-money offers and rival club officials visiting the family home in Forbes, prompting the Panthers to table a significant three-year extension of their own.

The flow-on effect: nine-year club favourite Josh Mansour being told two-game rookie Staines would start ahead of him in 2021, setting in motion the veteran's eventual return to South Sydney.

"It was sad to see Sauce (Mansour) go like that," Staines told NRL.com.

"He's obviously a good clubman and a good bloke as well. It was pretty hard in that sense.

"He's one of the blokes I've looked up to the entire time since I got here, since I was 18.

"It's surreal to be in this position where I'm training and playing with guys like that, but it's strange when that kind of thing happens too.

"We didn't really talk about it or have to talk it out. Obviously there's no hard feelings, it's all good there. He gave his farewell speech and it was pretty emotional.

"That first Penrith-Souths game too, I reckon he'll get up for that one."

Match Highlights: Sharks v Panthers

The Panthers obviously have high hopes for Staines, and well-founded ones at that given his rapid rise.

Already he has carved out a reputation as the fastest player at the club in some time.

Penrith head of performance Hayden Knowles is yet to test the 'Forbes Ferrari', because there's no real need.

"I know he is the fastest without a doubt," Knowles said.

"Any contest involving speed he wins."

Knowles backs Staines "with no hesitation" to crack 4.85 seconds over 40 metres, but is wary of pushing him unnecessarily given the recurring hamstring injuries the youngster copped last year.

Understandable given Penrith's investment in the Forbes Magpies junior.

The club reluctantly gave Staines permission to test the market last year, which saw Canterbury and Wests Tigers in hot pursuit and former Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill driving the five hours from Sydney to Forbes to meet his parents.

Fellow country NSW product and Staines' one-time housemate Matt Burton eventually plumped for Belmore, and is now being wrangled over for an early release from the Panthers.

For Staines though the promise of Penrith's stunning junior crop and a clear indication of where he stood from Ivan Cleary was enough for him to stay put.

"It was a bit weird, having clubs looking at me, definitely the first time that's ever happened for me," he said.

"I've played for Penrith for a few years and to get that attention, it's good I guess, but deep down I always knew that wanted to stay.

"I certainly had to consider the offers, you can't not right? But I was never fully committed to another team.

Staines making this try-scoring caper look easy

"Ivan made it clear, there's confidence they can develop me here, that this is the best system to work in.

"There was a bit of thought, but deep down I'm thinking I want to stay. And I'm happy that it's worked out."

Staines' 2021 role has been slated for the right wing as Brian To'o switches over to the left.

Nathan Cleary will remain a fixture inside him as the likes of Brent Naden, Tyrone May and now Paul Momirovski are battling for the right centre spot.

Just like the rest of his ascension to NRL, Staines' learning curve as a winger has come in quick time.

"I've played on the wing for six or seven games in the under-20s, then the rest of that year at fullback," he said.

"And that's about it really, and the two games in NRL obviously.

"I prefer fullback, that's what I played coming through as a junior so I'm still adapting on the wing. I'm working out how to play my game out on the wing still.

"I've just got to get the reps in at training, do my video and I work with Ciro on how I can better with my defence and positioning.

"I've learnt to stay on my edge a little bit more, because instinctively I want to go sniffing around the ruck.

"I'll try that in those first few plays [of a set], pushing up with the forwards but then I'll get back to my edge to keep our shape. I've got Nath on my side so it's worth staying out there."

Panthers in 2021

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