Star Manly halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans believe finally playing free of their contract hassles is enabling them to find their best form as the Sea Eagles ready themselves for a late charge at the NRL top eight.
The futures of Foran and Cherry-Evans have been one of the NRL’s key narratives this season, with the former only settling his future with Parramatta two weeks ago. Since then Manly have secured back-to-back wins for just the second time this season.
Foran said the end of his contract saga had enabled him to approach and play his football with a cooler head.
“It is always nice to get that stuff out of the way and now I can fully focus on the last eight to 12 games here at Manly and make the most of it,” the Kiwi international said on Thursday.
“It would be great to keep notching the wins up and make a charge for the eight, in the back of our minds we know we can’t drop too many games otherwise we might not be there.
“It is an unusual feeling for everyone, we are used to being up there, but now we are not it’s something we are using as a challenge and one we are going to enjoy.”
Manly have qualified for the past 10 finals series and Cherry-Evans said he too was feeling better about his football, with the Sea Eagles needing to win seven of their last eight games to guarantee a spot in the final eight.
“It is really good to be playing without any hassle about your future,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I am very fortunate that I have got that sorted out now, hopefully that does result in some more good games for me, but more importantly more good games for the side and us getting into the finals.”
Veteran prop Willie Mason said the duo which led Manly to their 2011 premiership win were noticeably more relaxed since determining their futures.
“I think so, they are pretty hard taskmasters on themselves and they knew they weren’t playing up to their potential,” Mason said.
“The last six to eight weeks they put too much pressure on themselves to get this team up to the next level. It has been a relief for both of them to get that stuff out of the way.”
Manly host second placed North Queensland at Brookvale Oval on Monday to conclude the NRL’s round 19, in a true test of the Sea Eagles’ form against the in-form Johnathan Thurston.
“It is both a challenge individually both for me and Kieran but also for us as a side,” Cherry-Evans said.
“As a half you pride yourself on leading the team around the park and getting them to a win. If we can beat this great Cowboys side it is going to be a big step for us moving forward.”