Published on the roar.com.au 13/3/13
While the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels and Newcastle Knights stole most of the round one headlines, one side flew silently under the radar. Perhaps experts did not think much of it.
Maybe they believe this side will eventually fade into a very long National Rugby League season. Many believe these guys do not have the depth to challenge again in 2013.
But Friday night at Suncorp Stadium, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles came from behind and downed the Brisbane Broncos on the back of that Manly toughness.
That grit that seems to edge them over the advantage line when the chips are down. The ability to keep hitting in defence when many other tiring NRL sides would retreat.
Those experts might be right and the Eagles might misfire. Injuries could hurt them and yes, their depth could be challenged. But right now, Manly deserve credit for the intensity and tenacity that saw them claw their way back from a halftime deficit.
Other sides might have impressed with big wins against disappointing opposition, but Manly were impressive for other reasons. They got down in the trenches and outmuscled the Broncos.
Perhaps people don’t like reading about the Eagles. But any side that boasts Jamie Lyon, Daly Cherry-Evans, Kieran Foran and the Stewart brothers is going to challenge teams each and every week (even when one of the Stewarts is out injured).
When you add the lethal Steve Matai, workhorses like Matt Ballin and representative backrower Anthony Watmough you have some sort of side.
But Cherry-Evans is the key.
The halfback was masterful on Friday and plays the game like playmakers should. Like fellow Queenslander Johnathan Thurston, Cherry-Evans plays what is in front of him and the play is determined by what the defensive line does.
If the rising star has a monster Dally M-esque season, who is to say Manly can’t challenge for the title again?
“Toovs (Geoff Toovey) rallied us at halftime and you know our middle men really stood up in that second half and laid a great foundation for us outside men,” Cherry-Evans told seaeagles.com.au after the victory.
“I guess I have to thank Joey (Andrew Johns) you know and even Toovs he’s been great this preseason. They’ve really worked hard with me and Kieran so hopefully we can create many opportunities for our outside men this season.”
The combination of Cherry-Evans and Foran can only develop quicker with Immortal Johns and Toovey mentoring the young pivots.
They are polar opposites away from the football field and apparently hang in different circles. But on the field, the pair complement each other better than just about any other halves combination in the NRL.
People forget that Cherry-Evans is only 24 and Foran is 22. These are two young men the Eagles can build a club around for the next ten years.
“We let them away with some really easy penalties and you know that really kept us out of the game and them in it,” Cherry-Evans continued.
“We’ll work on that and hopefully we don’t do the same sort of things next week.”
Next up is the Knights in Sunday night football at Brookvale Oval.
The question is, how many wins will it take for rugby league experts to start giving Manly the respect they once had?