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Sea Eagles halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.

Manly expects to start its 2020 season with the same halves pairing that finished 2019 in the second week of the finals – Daly Cherry-Evans and Dylan Walker.

As the Sea Eagles spine is starting to take shape over the pre-season it seems Cade Cust and Lachlan Croker, who have been training at both hooker and in the halves, will be fighting it out for the utility position.

But skipper Cherry-Evans knows only too well how in the past Manly's depth in the halves has been tested through injury, recruitment and other issues over the years.

He had Kieran Foran as his steady partner for five seasons but in the past four years Cherry-Evans has had four different five-eighths alongside him in round one: Walker (2016), Blake Green (2017), Croker (2018) and Kane Elgey (2019).

With the loss of two hookers in Api Koroisau (Penrith) and Manase Fainu (shoulder), Manly has bought Knights rake Danny Levi into the picture.

"It is only early days but I've really liked what I've seen – the way he rocked up, kept his head down, hasn't spoken much, but is working extremely hard to earn everyone's respect through his actions," Cherry-Evans told

"And that's something I really admire about a player. Based on that he's here to help us be a better team."

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So that leaves Levi, Cherry-Evans, Walker and Tom Trbojevic as Des Hasler's preferred attacking spine this year.

Cherry-Evans said Cust and Croker would be the back-ups for No.9 and No.7.

"Obviously Dylan finished the year at No.6 so there's no secret that me and him will be in the halves this year," he said.

"Danny is obviously tracking to be our hooker so there is a utility spot up for grabs.

"Cade and Lochie are getting a lot of reps at both hooker and in the halves. So it's something that will unfold in the next month or so.

"They've both got very different strengths and weaknesses as players. The best part about both of them is that they're really trying to work on their game and whatever role they can play for the team, they'll do it.

"It's great to have options and depth."

As far as Trbojevic is concerned, Cherry-Evans said he would be ready for round one against Storm at Lottoland – the very team and venue the 23-year-old tore his left pectoral muscle in round 24 last year.

"Tom was ready late last year. I know he didn't finish the season but it was a 12-week injury so he could have played in December to be honest.

"He's sweet," Cherry-Evans said.

As for brother Jake Trbojevic and fellow forward Addin Fonua-Blake, both of whom underwent shoulder surgery, the wait may be a week or two longer.

"Jake and Addin are both transitioning back into team stuff. They'll be close come the start of the season – it's still a fair while away so a lot of training to be done, which is a good thing for them," Cherry-Evans said.

"Whenever they are ready… we obviously don't want to rush them back as they're important parts to our season."

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Second rower Jack Gosiewski had a vertebrae shaved in his lower back to relieve pressure on a disc.

"He seems to be going slow and steady. It's pretty serious back surgery so you have to tread carefully," Cherry-Evans said.

"But I believe he's not far away from really accelerating his rehab. And he's a tough bugger so I'm sure whenever he's ready to train at maximum capacity he's going to do it.

"Jack's toughness is renowned in our locker room. He's a great fella and works really hard."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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