When the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles take their first penalty goal or line up their opening conversion of the 2018 Telstra Premiership season, skipper Daly Cherry-Evans will pick up the green kicking tee.
He might have the third best accuracy rate from the four kickers the Sea Eagles used in 2017, but the 29-year-old has been hitting them sweetly in training – and in Manly’s last trial against the Sydney Roosters – and he wants to be the team’s main goal-kicker.
With no fuss or fanfare, he is putting up his hand for the job in round one against the Newcastle Knights on Friday night. And he intends following it through even when centre Dylan Walker makes his return from a lengthy injury lay-off.
“I practised half-heartedly last year so I never felt confident enough going into a season to be the number one goal kicker for our side,” Cherry Evans told NRL.com.
“This pre-season I felt I’ve really hit my groove and narrowed down the processes to goal kicking well. I’ve got that down pat at training and the Roosters game (trial) I took three from four.
“Seventy-five per cent is not Nathan Cleary-like but it’s certainly not bad.
“I’m in a position right now where I’m confident enough to be the No.1 goal-kicker for this team. It’s just going to come down to probably the coach’s decision.”
Matthew Wright, who deputised for Walker through his injury spells last season, enjoyed a 72.06% rate hitting 49/68. Then Walker followed on 65.63% (42/64), Cherry-Evans at 59.68% (37/62) and Api Koroisau 46.67% (7/15).
That kind of data, you would think, would give the captain the option of handing the tee to Walker if Cherry-Evans felt his legs were heavy in the final 10 minutes of a game.
“Even if my legs are heavy, I’m still kicking,” a defiant Cherry-Evans said. “If I’m our No.1 goal kicker, then there’s not a scenario I don’t want to be kicking for.
“If it’s me, then I want the team to know that if things are going good I’m doing it; if things are going bad I’m still happy to put my hand up.
“I want them to be confident that every kick I’m there for.”
That burst of goodwill Cherry-Evans is displaying will have to deploy to the other side of Manly’s kicking game – drop-outs.
Last year, Manly topped the NRL clubs for the most goal line drop-outs with 47 and chief ‘repeat-set king’ was five-eighth Blake Green with 25. But he is now plying his trade at the Warriors.
Cherry-Evans, who kicked the other 22 of Manly’s 2017 total, is willing to step up and try to fill that gap. But he was also very quick to nominate the Sea Eagles new No.6 Lachlan Croker as the man who needed to join him in that task. And he plucked an unlikely player to be the third – fullback Tom Trbojevic.
“The best sides in the NRL have two genuine options when it comes to kicking, sometimes three if you’re lucky,” Cherry-Evans said.
“The more Tom Trbojevic develops as a kicker, and the more he gets comfortable in the NRL, his kicking game will develop.
“Lachlan has been playing in the halves his whole life. He knows what is expected of him when we get down on the try line.
“And building pressure is a big part of that. Lachie’s well aware of where he sits and it’s the team’s understanding that he’s not there to fill a spot – he’s there to contribute.
“So on the question of where that slack is going to be picked up from Blake Green, well it’s going to be shared,” Cherry-Evans said with measured authority.
“But also Lachie is going to offer other things on top of what Blake did so the team keeps playing to its strengths.”