There was much relief for Kangaroos fans everywhere when the most talked about hip in the country came good at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Daly Cherry-Evans was pivotal in steering Australia to a come-from-behind 16-12 win over England to keep hopes of a Four Nations final berth alive.
Much of the build-up to Sunday’s Test centred around the fitness of Cherry-Evans, who was battling a hip injury that restricted him to just 30 minutes in last week’s loss to the Kiwis.
But that was a forgotten memory come game time as the Manly halfback played a vital hand in two of the Kangaroos’ three tries, including an assist to Greg Inglis for the match-winner.
Despite the doubts that surrounded his fitness prior to kick-off, Cherry-Evans revealed his mindset heading into Sunday’s Test to NRL.com after the match.
“I wouldn’t have played if I felt as though I was going to let the team down,” Cherry-Evans told NRL.com.
“The medical staff here did a fantastic job to help, to nurse me through the week and get me 100% fit.
“Myself and Cooper (Cronk) developed a better relationship on the back of last week’s loss. I think we are improving but there is certainly quite a bit of improvement left and I hope I can continue to show my strengths and help the team get victories.”
Cherry-Evans was just pipped for man-of-the-match honours by captain Cameron Smith.
The five-eighth disclosed the words of wisdom Smith had shared with him in the heat of battle.
“He (Smith) told me just to have fun out there and play like the Cherry-Evans that plays for Manly,” he said.
“After the (Inglis) try he came up to me and patted me on the back and said ‘That’s the Cherry-Evans we know and love.’
“It was a satisfying moment getting the nod from the skipper.”
Smith extended his praise for the No.6 to the waiting media after the game.
“I thought he was good today, he was more like the Cherry-Evans we all know,” said Smith.
“His involvement was great, his calls for me to get the ball to him were very dominant today and that is what you need from a half.
“Not relying on a guy who’s been there for a while like ‘Coops’ but having options on either side of our ruck. It was great to see him step up today when we needed him.”
The match-winning performance could be a sign of things to come for DCE, who until now has failed to cast his own shadow amidst limited opportunities on the international stage.
But with Jonathan Thurston absent for the duration of the tournament, there is hardly a better time than now for Cherry-Evans to take the next step in his career.
‘The King’ Wally Lewis was certainly one man who stood tall in that jersey across 10 years and 34 Tests. The history that precedes the green-and-gold five-eighth jersey is one not lost on the 25-year-old.
“I am wearing the No.6 jersey and I believe that is a very, very special jersey in Australian rugby league history,” said Cherry-Evans.
“I just want to make sure that I am just continuing to do it justice and making sure that I continue to contribute to this side and get the victories that we are after.”
The Kangaroos will be hoping that next victory comes in a dominant fashion against Samoa next Sunday, if they are to have any chance of meeting the Kiwis in the Four Nations final on November 15.