Amongst his many passions, Daly Cherry-Evans, Manly Sea Eagles captain and rugby league player, is above all, a fan of the NFL. Watching games whenever possible, participating in fantasy leagues, and even gleaning wisdom about his personal development and endurance in the sport.
A recent source of inspiration was “Man in the Arena,” a ten-part series portraying the career of Tom Brady, often celebrated as the greatest quarterback in history. Reflecting on the viewing experience, Cherry-Evans shared, “If there’s anything that reassured me from watching it, it was just to keep competing, keep trying to get better, keep finding ways to improve… But mostly just realise that game day is the best day of your week.”
Mirroring Brady, who retired at the age of 45 after 23 seasons and seven Super Bowl trophies, Cherry-Evans is arguably playing his best football as his career matures. As seen during the Sea Eagles‘ spectacular first half against Cronulla, Phil Gould told Channel Nine viewers that Cherry-Evans’ skillful blend of passing, kicking and footwork at the line affirmed he had “mastered his trade.”
Cherry-Evans responded to this compliment with modest laughter, countering, “I’ve just come to realise what a good game looks like for me. That’s competing on every play, not the flashy plays I was known for earlier in my career.”
A peculiar observation in NRL is that the most prominent halfbacks tend to be in their 30s, an age typically associated with slowing down and contemplating a final career payday in the Super League. However, Cherry-Evans, at 34, looks forward to his 300th match milestone when the Sea Eagles face St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium. His opponent will be his good friend, Dragons‘ halfback Ben Hunt, 33, who, like Cherry-Evans, is advancing with age.
Broncos’ halfback, and captain, 33-year-old Adam Reynolds has also shown marked improvements as he matures. Having transitioned from his much-loved South Sydney to the Broncos, his career has experienced an incredible second act, and according to Cooper Cronk, Reynolds has become the “smartest player in the NRL.”
The idea that the game becomes more sedate with age because players have encountered virtually all possible game situations is frequently shared by Playmakers. Reynold’s agrees, noting, “In that sense, the game does slow down, and you see it a lot clearer.” Evidence of this can be seen in his performance during round 20 against the Bulldogs at Belmore Sportsground. Reynolds articulated, “It’s a little game of chess out there, trying to be one step ahead of the defence and you do that through deception.”
Likewise, Reynold’s competition, Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson, 32, has also seen his performance improve consistently. He was singled out by coach Andrew Webster earlier this week for showing an increase in his toughness, resulting in an exemplary season. Furthermore, halfback and opposition player Cherry-Evans gained form due to his extended participation in State of Origin for Queensland, leading to three series victories under his leadership.
Cherry-Evans will meet Hunt during his 300th game, which should be an interesting matchup given Hunt’s consistent performance for his team, even though he has sought a release from the Dragons. With a smile, Cherry-Evans concluded, “You talk about competitiveness: he won’t be giving me a free pass in my 300th.”