By Chris Kennedy NRL.com
Photo: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos
Sea Eagles star and Kangaroos five-eighth Daly Cherry-Evans has just produced arguably his two best games at senior representative level, and it's come off the back of adapting his game to suit the team's needs.
Cherry-Evans – who sat out the second half of Australia's first game with a hip injury – has put boot to ball just five times in two and half games in the Four Nations.
That's once every 40 minutes he's been on the field – almost unheard of for a top-line playmaker, especially one renowned for having a strong long kicking game.
By contrast, his senior halves partner Cooper Cronk has 38 kicks in general play after three games, in a clear nod to who is calling the shots out on the field.
It's a far cry from Cherry-Evans's modus operandi on the northern beaches, where he and fellow dominant half Kieran Foran share the load fairly evenly; in 2014 Cherry-Evans averaged just under 10 kicks per game and Foran just under eight.
Cherry-Evans has produced a similar number of runs – 5.5 per game in the two he completed this series, compared to 7.8 per game in 2014 for Manly – but he's made them count, with six tackle breaks, a line break and a try, averaging more than 10 metres per run.
"My role has definitely changed in the side [compared to coming off the bench behind Cronk and Johnathan Thurston] but it's something I was always looking forward to, playing a different role, and just finding ways to play to my strengths in this side somehow," Cherry-Evans said after the 44-18 win over Samoa.
"We obviously have a lot of talent in this side and [you can] get lost in it all so I'm just trying to make sure I contribute to the team and improve every week."
Cherry-Evans said he feels like he is improving, which is every player's main focus.
"I'm definitely more confident. I'm sure everyone who's been in camp is feeling more confident. As the weeks go on you build mateship, friendship, combinations, and slowly they improve," he said.
"I feel as though I'm improving and that's all that any player wants to do at Test level – they want to make sure they're contributing to the side and improving every game. At the moment I feel as though I'm doing that but I'd be very disappointed if I didn't save my best for last."
He also said he and Cronk are improving on their combination as a halves pairing.
"I think we've improved, it's fair to say that. But for us to [say] we've got it all worked out or all down pat would be a lie. We're still learning each other's games and we're still trying to feed off each other out there on the field. Preparation this week will be very important."