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Stat Attack: DCE, Pearce shouldering huge kicking loads

No player has kicked the ball nearly as much or as far in 2020 as Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans, who has almost exclusively handled his team's set finishes.

With 105 general-play kicks for 3003 metres, the Australian Test halfback has accounted for a huge 73.4 percent of Manly's 143 kicks.

It's not uncommon for a side to have a dominant kicker, but Cherry-Evans is currently the most relied upon in the NRL.

His regular halves partner Dylan Walker, who is sidelined with an ankle injury, began his first-grade career as a centre and is now more of a running five-eighth than an organiser and kicker.

Walker has kicked just 11 times in six games (47th in the league).

However, DCE is doing a fine job. He is ranked second for long kicks into open space with 11 - finding the grass on 21.6 percent of punts - and is equal sixth for forced dropouts (6).

Prior to round eight, Warriors general Blake Green had kicked the second-most times (91 kicks for 2748m, 62.7 percent of team's kicks), followed by Eels No.7 Mitch Moses (90 for 2570m, 59.6 percent), Newcastle's Mitchell Pearce (90 for 2215m, 57.6 percent) and Penrith's Nathan Cleary (88 for 2437m, 50.57 percent).

Bulldogs halfback Lachlan Lewis had taken 71.1 percent of his side's kicks (69 of 97 for 2184m) when he was dropped after five rounds to shoulder slightly less kicking responsibility than Cherry-Evans.

While it's no secret he will almost always receive the ball on the last tackle, Manly aren't concerned by DCE's kicking workload.

"He's a quality kicker and helps the team a lot in that department," teammate Cade Cust said.

"He steps up a lot and I think he takes it upon himself a lot, but I don't think it's part of the game-plan for Chez to kick it [all the time].

"Whoever's in the halves with him, Lachy [Croker] this week, they know when they should be kicking and the point of the field where you should step up. You help Chez out as much as you can, but he's impeccable with his kicking."

Croker had four kicks in last round's loss to the Sharks, somewhat easing the strain on Cherry-Evans, who had 10.

The Sea Eagles host the Knights at Lottoland on Sunday afternoon. Like Manly and Cherry-Evans, Newcastle count on their captain Pearce to do the bulk of the kicking.

As mentioned above, Pearce has taken 57.6 percent of his team's kicks - and Knights coach Adam O'Brien wants to see his load lightened.

"We need to do some work on our kick finishes and help Mitchell in that area," O'Brien said after last week's loss to North Queensland.

Daly Cherry-Evans and Mitchell Pearce.
Daly Cherry-Evans and Mitchell Pearce. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"I think he does about 99.9 percent of the kicking, so we need to share that around a little bit."

Pearce, who has found open space six times (17.1 percent) on long kicks, felt he had an off night with the boot against the Cowboys.

"The kicking wasn't good enough on the weekend and that's something that as a team we want to get better," he said on Thursday.

Similarly to Cherry-Evans, Pearce's halves partner Kurt Mann - who has been in great touch - isn't a traditional five-eighth and doesn't do much long kicking. He is ranked 35th for overall kicks with 23.

But Pearce has fullback Kalyn Ponga to lean on for assistance. The 22-year-old superstar has kicked 29 times this season (29th in league).

The kicking duel between Pearce and Cherry-Evans will be just one aspect to an enthralling clash between the Origin halfbacks.

"I always enjoy coming up against Chez because he's such a quality player," Pearce said.

"He's having another good season over there at Manly and I'm sure if I can play my best footy it'll go a long way for us getting over the top of Chez and his mob."