Daly Cherry-Evans is happy to make an impact off the bench if it means he keeps on playing for the Kangaroos.
Mal Meninga’s defending champions included 13 international newcomers in their travelling party but Cherry-Evans is the elder statesman, making his green and gold debut in 2011 and starting the 2013 final at Old Trafford on the interchange.
Cherry-Evans’s battle for the halfback jersey with Nathan Cleary has been the major selection talking point of recent weeks, before Meninga settled on the Penrith star for the quarter-final clash with Lebanon, a game won 48-4 thanks to Josh Addo-Carr’s five-try haul.
At one point there was speculation he might play both in the halves and while that wasn’t in his primary plan, they still played 40 minutes together after James Tedesco came off at half-time and Cameron Munster was shifted to full-back.
“I know how special this team is, I’ll take a bench spot and I do feel like I have something to offer,” said the Manly star.
“Early on I was in some really good sides and I just had to bide my time and take any game time I could. I’m also really happy for Nathan to get the jersey, that could be his for a long time.
“Looking across the board it is obviously a great side so to be in the best 17, I’m really proud of that and hoping to maintain a spot moving forward.
“When Mal told me I wasn’t going to start, I was disappointed but what I pride myself that once you feel that initial disappointment you have just got to focus on what you can control.
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“The only way I was going to handle it so train well and hopefully perform well. Mal has been really honest about the situation and I knew what I was up against.
“I’m aware of how old I am getting and the quality of players coming through but for as long as I’m playing good footy and offering something to this team, I’m going to stay involved.”
By his high standards, it was not a vintage game for Cleary, as Australia – the win secured at half-time – were scrappier after the interval.
He skewed his first kick from hand into touch and missed three of his first four kicks at goal but still finished with 12 points and had a hand in two of the Kangaroos nine tries. Even a not fully firing Cleary is a serious handful for rivals.
“I think Daly was such a man about it, he is a legend to me,” he said. “He just came up to me straight away and said, ‘anything you need I will help you out’. I was very grateful for that.
“I was glad that he got to play. It was a surreal feeling to get to play alongside him and besides these guys. I have just got to keep putting my best foot forward, and keep working hard to gain the respect of my team-mates.”
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