CHERRY-EVANS v CRONK: Having spent time in camp for both Australia last October and Queensland before State of Origin I, Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is looking forward to finally coming up against the man standing in his representative way when the Sea Eagles travel to Melbourne on Monday night.
Cherry-Evans has long been a fan of Storm playmaker Cooper Cronk and told NRL.com that he hoped to emulate the manner in which Cronk has moulded himself into one of the game’s top halfbacks.
“Cooper is very professional in the way he prepares for a game and that’s something I would definitely try and improve on myself,” the 23-year-old said, admitting he kept a close eye on Cronk during his time with the Maroons.
“At the end of the day [the Origin players] can’t focus too much on trying to lend a hand – they’re preparing for a massive game of Origin, so in the end it’s just about being in the shadows there, being around it and trying to pick up little things that can possibly help your game.”
Asked how important it was for him to put in a big performance against Cronk on Monday, Cherry-Evans replied: “It’s hard to say because one big game isn’t going to define my season. It would be great to have a good game but in saying that it’s your season performance you’re looking for.”
Manly returned to the winners’ circle with a 20-8 win over St George Illawarra last start – that match coinciding with the return from injury of Kieran Foran – and Cherry-Evans said he was looking forward to rekindling the partnership that led them to a premiership in 2011.
“Just for the team in general having Kieran out there is a massive positive for us,” he said.
“It’s obviously been a bit difficult because I’ve never played with Liam (Foran) before so it’s like starting again – you’ve got to form your combination and I think over the past few weeks Liam and I have struck up a good combination but it’s definitely good signs that Kieran is back.”
OLDFIELD ON MOVE? While on the topic of Manly, it seems Darcy Lussick might not be the only player on his way out at the end of the season following news he has signed with Parramatta for 2013. We’re hearing that this week’s opponents Melbourne are closing in on the signature of Sea Eagles speedster Michael Oldfield.
DRAGONS’ FIRE STILL BURNS: St George Illawarra centre Matt Cooper remains adamant that the Dragons are on the right track with the ball in hand despite having scored fewer tries than any other side in 2012.
The Dragons have crossed for just 33 tries this season – fewer than Parramatta (35), the Gold Coast (35) and Newcastle (36) – but Cooper insists there is no cause for concern ahead of tonight’s clash with the Bulldogs.
“We’ve just got to keep at it,” he said. “We’ve got a system here. I think it will work, we’ve just got to have some confidence in it. We’ve made some minor changes but nothing significant so we’ve just got to work at it and really nail it on game day.
“Things aren’t coming off for us at the moment but we’re practising and training well. We’re excited to get out there [tonight] and hopefully score some points.”
Cooper, the club’s leading try-scorer last season with 14, pointed to the Dragons’ consecutive golden-point losses to Penrith and South Sydney in Rounds 10 and 11 as the main reason for the side’s predicament (they currently sit 10th) rather than their attacking woes.
“It has been pretty tough but we’re confident that we can get better and start winning some games,” he said. “It was tough getting beaten in two golden points – that hurt us a little bit – but in saying that we've played some good teams and put in some good performances; we just haven’t got away with the wins.
“That’s got to be our main focus is getting a win and playing some good footy.”
SA’U EXIT STRATEGY: Junior Sa’u is the latest casualty of the Wayne Bennett era with the hulking Knights centre given permission to negotiate with other clubs. Sa’u only signed a new two-year deal with the club last season but is clearly not in Bennett’s future plans having played just eight of 13 games in the top grade this season.