As they set about trying to finish Manly’s season in the best possible way, the Sea Eagles’ brilliant halves have reflected on the advice they received before the start of it.
In the off-season, coach Geoff Toovey told halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and five-eighth Kieran Foran to become more involved in the team’s attack – even if it meant making more mistakes. The result has been clear: their form has been one of the key reasons they will chase their second premiership as a halves combination against Sydney Roosters on Sunday.
“The coaching staff has been a big part in us getting our hands on the ball more, which has led to us making more mistakes, but also coming up with better options,” Cherry-Evans said. “Our gameplan has been altered – not changed, but altered a little – so me and Kieran are getting our hands on the ball more, and also getting the strike players the ball more, Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai and Brett Stewart.
“I think it’s been a good move. As everyone does in the pre-season, you just try to better yourself, and better your side. That’s what the coaching staff has done this year.”
The pair is already considered the best halves combination in the competition, and according to many the best in some time, yet the scary part about the partnership is how much better 23-year-old Foran and 24-year-old Cherry-Evans could get.
“For us to stand around and think we’ve done it all would be absolutely ridiculous,” Cherry-Evans said. “That’s not the type of person me and Kieran are. We’re competitive, we’re always trying to take our game to the next level, and we’ll continue to do that for seasons ahead for as long as we’re playing next to each other.”
Said Foran: “We’re still very early on in both our careers. The more experience we get, and the more games we play together on the biggest stage, we’ll just grow and grow.
“I don’t think there’s a limit on how good you can get as a player.
“We work really hard on our combination together, we do talk a lot of footy together and discuss what we feel we can do out there each week. We put a lot of effort into it. It’d be great to be together for many years to come.”
Cherry-Evans, contracted until the end of 2015, has been linked with a move to Brisbane in recent months, but Foran is desperate for his partner to hang around for the long haul.
“I don’t want to see him go anywhere,” Foran said. “I think he’s been great for us here, and I think he’s got so much good footy left in him at the club.
“I’d love him to hang around, along with the fact that I love playing with him as well. All the other boys do too. Hopefully he hangs around. I think he knows how I feel about that. I don’t want to see him go.”
For his part, Cherry-Evans said he wouldn’t be, in the short term.
“I don’t know what more I can say for it to go away,” he said. “I’m contracted with Manly for the next two years. I have no intention of breaking that.
“I honestly smile and laugh at it, because there’s nothing I can do for it to go away.”
In many people’s eyes, Cherry-Evans has been the form halfback of the competition this year, while Foran, as tough as they come in his position, complements him. Many feel that together they will rival or even better the most successful halves combinations of recent decades.
A win on Sunday, against the Roosters’ pairing of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, will only strengthen their standing among the great partnerships.
“It’s still surreal, to be playing in my second grand final,” Foran said. “I’m just very fortunate to be involved in such a great footy club. You hear about blokes that go through their whole careers and don’t feature in one grand final, and don’t win one comp. I’ve been fortunate enough to win one here, and playing for a second.”
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