Manly Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans is expected to be recognised for his exceptional NRL season by being selected in Australia’s 20-man squad for the upcoming Pacific Championships. As the Telstra Premiership campaign concludes for eight clubs after Round 27, Gallagher Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga will begin announcing players in a train-on squad for the end-of-season tournament, which kicks off on October 14 at QCB Stadium.
On October 14, the Kangaroos will face Toa Samoa while the Harvey Norman Jillaroos will take on the Kiwi Ferns in a rematch of last year’s men’s and women’s World Cup finals at Old Trafford. The Australian teams will then go head-to-head with New Zealand in a double-header at AAMI Park on November 28. These matches in Townsville and Melbourne will be the first time the Kangaroos and Jillaroos have played in Australia since 2019 when they hosted New Zealand at WIN Stadium.
Despite losing the Australian No.7 jersey to Nathan Cleary during the World Cup, Cherry-Evans remains a crucial member of the Kangaroos squad due to his experience and versatility. The 34-year-old recently celebrated his 300th NRL match and has been a standout performer for the Sea Eagles this season, leading Queensland to an Origin series win.
Meninga acknowledged Cherry-Evans’ exceptional form, stating, “I reckon Chez has had his best year, and we are picking a squad.” He also highlighted Cherry-Evans’ ability to play in multiple positions, such as No.6 or No.9, which adds to his value and makes him a potentially strong No.14 player for the team.
Cherry-Evans expressed his determination to secure a place in the Kangaroos squad after missing out on the team for the World Cup semi-final or final. He admitted his motivation stemmed from losing the Australian halfback jersey, stating, “If I get dropped, I want to get back in there, and I’m always ambitious to play rep footy.”
Halfback is a position that Meninga wants to ensure he has more than one specialist in the squad, in case of injury or suspension during the tournament. Australian captain James Tedesco is expected to lead the team again if he is available, despite competition from other players such as Reece Walsh, Kalyn Ponga, and Dylan Edwards.
Meninga explained the difficulty in fitting all players into a 20-man squad, stating, “We only picked one fullback for the World Cup because Latrell [Mitchell], Cameron [Munster], Val [Holmes], and Foxx [Josh Addo-Carr] can all play fullback.” He emphasised the importance of versatility across the squad while acknowledging the achievements of Teddy at the fullback position.
Many members of the World Cup winning squad have maintained strong performances this season, with players like Lindsay Collins and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui elevating their games to another level. However, there may be some players ruled out due to injury or suspension, such as Campbell Graham and Jeremiah Nanai.
Meninga expressed his desire to reward players for their success and acknowledged the growth and development of young and inexperienced players like Lindsay Collins and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui as representatives. He believes they will continue to improve with more experience.