MVPs of 2014: Daly Cherry-Evans
As we count down to season 2014, NRL.com identifies 30 players who will be crucial to their team's fortunes this year. From new faces to rising stars to proven performers who will need to lift this season, these are our 'MVPs' for 2014.
When the Manly Sea Eagles were widely derided as being 'Dad's Army' last season, two key factors were being overlooked. The first was the pure quality of Manly's starting side – the likes of Jamie Lyon, Anthony Watmough and Glenn and Brett Stewart have just about done it all in rugby league, and continue to produce at the top level. The second was the youthful brilliance of halves duo Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran.
By the end of 2013, the Sea Eagles were the NRL's runners-up and Cherry-Evans and Foran were facing off in the World Cup final, with Cherry-Evans capping a breakout tournament for the Kangaroos with a comfortable win.
It was a dream end to a brilliant season for the blonde-haired halfback, who was the only No.7 in the NRL to hit double figures for tries (11), try assists (14), line-break assists (11) and line breaks (13).
Yet those attacking stats only tell half the story. No half gets through more defensive work than Cherry-Evans, who made 22 tackles a game last season. He also takes on the vast bulk of Manly's kicking duties despite playing alongside a world-class five-eighth in Foran.
Cherry-Evans took out the Clive Churchill Medal in the 2013 NRL Grand Final despite Manly's loss to the Roosters, and finished in equal second place in Dally M medal voting behind Cooper Cronk.
Just how good can the 24-year-old get?
During the World Cup there were calls for Cherry-Evans to get a nod in the starting team ahead of Cronk – a huge compliment considering the Melbourne half's achievements at club level with the Storm and rep level with Queensland and Australia. It's hard to see anyone getting past Cronk and Johnathan Thurston at rep level just yet, but the Queensland-raised Cherry-Evans is ready to continue the Maroons' torment of the Blues should he get the chance at a starting spot this season.
But the halfback is even more important to an increasingly ageing Manly side, which will no doubt again be tagged with the "too old" label at some stage this season. He and the 23-year-old Foran can be the dominant halves pairing in the NRL for years, but this current crop of Eagles will be desperate to prove that their premiership-winning window hasn't closed yet.
At the rate he's going, there's every chance Cherry-Evans can establish as the dominant half in the league in 2014, and if that's the case then Manly will be tough to beat come September.
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