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He had no expectations of himself when first handed the South Sydney No.7 jersey at the start of the year, but as Adam Reynolds prepares to face reigning premiers Manly this weekend he admits a rising desire to match the feats of opposite number Daly Cherry-Evans.

It’s coming up to 12 months ago now that Cherry-Evans came from the clouds to lead Manly to the 2011 premiership in his debut season – claiming Rookie of the Year honours in the process and making his Test debut in Australia’s successful Four Nations campaign.

Much like the Manly playmaker, Reynolds has played a huge role in the Rabbitohs’ resurgence this season and with the famous club set to contest their first finals series since 2007 (and only second since 1989) he is a firm favourite to become the latest Dally M Rookie of the Year.

“It would be good to match that,” Reynolds told “He [Cherry-Evans] had a great year last year and is having another good year this year. He played for Australia and was in the Origin squad this year. He is certainly a player I look up to. It would be good to do the same but there are still a few games to go before I get to that point. I’ve just got to put the hard yards in and keep building on my performances.”

Asked about his favouritism to win Rookie of the Year honours, Reynolds replied: “Oh it would be amazing – but a lot of that comes down to the team and their performances making my job a lot easier.

“I still think I can get a bit better. I think my attack could be a bit better but I’m slowly working on that with our combinations. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks.”

There is more than a touch of irony in just how similar Reynolds’ path has been to that of Cherry-Evans. The Manly playmaker had spent the 2010 season playing Queensland Cup and hadn’t expected his NRL call-up until Trent Hodkinson stunned Manly officials by signing on with the Bulldogs. Similarly, it was Chris Sandow’s departure to Parramatta this season that opened the door for Reynolds to take his place after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury.

Yet even now the 22-year-old admits he never expected to perform so strongly.

“I didn’t think I’d go that well in the first few games,” he said. “I was slowly finding my feet and just trying to build throughout the year.

“I mean, I was confident – the confidence has always been there since the coach put faith in me to do well and lead the team around but I never really set myself high expectations. I just wanted to go out and keep my spot in the team and play consistent footy all year.”

Key to Reynolds’ success this season has been his family, who the young halfback credits with keeping him firmly grounded.

Already a father of two, he shares a house with both his partner and his parents with the responsibility that comes with fatherhood ensuring he doesn’t lose focus.

“It takes my mind of footy,” he explained. “I can go home and all I worry about is them. It’s definitely a good thing – it gets my balance right between life and footy.

“I think it’s important not to get too comfortable [with football] and always look to improve.

“There is still a long way to go this year and I want to keep playing consistent footy, really push the team around and be more dominant on the park.

“I think there is still a lot of room for me to be more dominant within the team and keep working on our combinations.

“We’re building on our performances every week and trying to get better at all the little things – getting in the arm wrestle and backing our defence. We’re really looking forward to Manly this week. They’re another good test for us.”

Reynolds remains contracted to Souths for another 12 months but with the club already making moves to secure his services beyond 2013 he said he was keen to extend his time at Redfern as the Rabbitohs look to return to the glory days of the early 1970s.

“I’ve got another year left but we’re talking to the club at the moment and if I keep playing good footy that will sort itself out,” he said.

“I’ll leave it up to my manager to see what’s best for me and my family but I’d love to stay at the club. I’ve got a good club here and all the players are really tight. I think it would be a good thing to keep all the combinations together.”

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