RUGBY league guru Matt Elliott has made a massive call on the form of Daly Cherry-Evans and his State of Origin future.
The journeyman coach told The Lab Cherry-Evans is easily Queensland’s second best halfback option, describing him as “a bee’s dick” behind champion Cooper Cronk on form at the moment.
DCE has represented the Maroons in the past but has seemingly been bumped down the halves pecking order by the likes of Anthony Milford, Michael Morgan, Corey Norman, and possibly even Ben Hunt.
Elliott explained Cherry-Evans is too similar a player to share a field with Cronk, but rates him the next in line as soon as the champion makes his Queensland exit.
“He’s a bee’s dick from Cooper,” Elliott said of Cherry-Evans’ standing in the Origin ranks.
“Cooper Cronk and him in the same (team) don’t go, you’ve got the same player. If you asked me if he should be in the Queensland team ahead of Cronk, no.”
Elliott believes Cherry-Evans is on par with the competition’s very best halfbacks, including the likes of Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
He went as far as to suggest if Cherry-Evans was to replace Cronk in the Melbourne team, there wouldn’t be too much difference.
“For me, he’s a Cooper Cronk style of player, and given the same opportunity you’re going to get the same performance,” Elliott said.
“Cooper’s got the opportunity of playing in a more highly functional team at club level from a weekly basis.
“But for me DCE is the heir apparent when Cooper decides he’s not going to play rep football or retire.”
Manly have been in solid form this season and sit sixth on the NRL ladder, and Elliott puts that largely down to their skipper.
“Daly Cherry-Evans, I can’t be more impressed with him. I can’t understand why he’s not getting more recognition,” Elliott said.
“His form this year, and his lack of acknowledgment, both astound me. His form’s been outstanding, he’s one of the major reasons Manly are overachieving.
“The way he positions himself to get his best kick away, then chases it, and quite often makes the first tackle after his kick and then tries to make a double.
“I’ve got him right up there with every half in the competition.”
THE TAUPAU FACTOR
Cherry-Evans might be the man at the front of Manly’s charge this season, but there’s one player laying the platform for his captain week after week.
Taupau is averaging 161 running metres per game this year and has registered 39 offloads already, compared to the 31 in total for a disappointing 2016 season with the Sea Eagles.
Elliott credits coach Trent Barrett for the turnaround in Taupau’s form.
“One of the things I’ve really got to tip my hat to Trent Barrett is his understanding of where Marty Taupau brings most value to the team,” Elliott told The Lab.
“I’ve got to admit I kept looking at Taupau and thinking he doesn’t carry the ball on early plays, but a lot of Manly’s attacking structure was around Marty Taupau carrying the ball on play three and four.
“After there’s been some momentum in the set he gets to carry that ball 10 metres, and he’s such a handful when you can’t come forward in defence on him.
“They’ve got the defence rolling back, he hits the line, carries 12 blokes on his back for five metres then gets an offload.
“One of the reasons they’re overachieving — a bit like St George (Illawarra) — is their response to second phase play is right up there.
“He gets an offload, and Tom Trbojevic’s response to it, Cherry-Evans’ response to it, and they’re shifting the ball out of there and they’re ready to go.
What you’ve got is you’ve gone forward, you’ve engaged three or four defenders, so if you do your math — and there’s two guys at the ruck — there’s five guys out of the defensive line and the defensive line is on the way back to get onside.
“Every opposition coach and their team would be spending a fair time of their defensive preparation speaking about him.”