A licence to roam wherever he likes has Daly Cherry-Evans primed for Manly's first-round clash against Canterbury at Brookvale Oval, with the Sea Eagles to debut not only a new-look roster but a new style on Friday night.
In the highly structured modern rugby league arena, halfbacks and five-eighths at many clubs effectively perform similar roles on opposite sides of the field. During his successful partnership with Kieran Foran that reaped a premiership in 2011, Cherry-Evans customarily operated on the right side of the paddock, with Foran on the left.
But with the arrival of new head coach Trent Barrett at North Narrabeen, coupled with the exit of Foran to Parramatta, Manly's star No.7 is being let off the leash in a way that if it goes to plan could mirror Johnathan Thurston's role at premiers North Queensland.
Increased responsibility: Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Cherry-Evans will link with Sea Eagles newcomer Dylan Walker in the halves and it's the halfback who will be chiefly responsible for guiding Barrett's team around, at least initially.
The 27-year-old hasn't had such a roving job since he starred in the Queensland Cup with the then Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles in 2010 and is eager to put it to the test against the Bulldogs.
"I'm really looking forward to being able to roam across the field and not pidgeon hole myself on one side of the field. Hopefully that works for the side, to be honest. We haven't tried it yet so hopefully that's a benefit to the side," Cherry-Evans said on Tuesday.
"It's really refreshing that I'm able to test myself and to take my game to another level. It's exciting and as footballers it's the little changes like that in your game that you really look forward to.
"We've trained really hard and I feel as though I've applied myself really well at training to help the whole team gel enough for me to fit into that.
"It's not foreign to me but it definitely is new and something that I haven't been playing for the last few years."
There is a fresh feel around Manly headquarters in direct contrast to the atmosphere at the club last year. Then there were the high-profile sagas surrounding the futures of both Cherry-Evans and Foran, as well as the pressure on Barrett's predecessor Geoff Toovey.
Barrett is a first-year coach at NRL level but the players are on board.
"It's a completely different structure within the club, both as a playing roster and a coaching staff. It is completely different and the style of football might even be different the way we play this year. It's all new and it's all exciting," Cherry-Evans said.
"The coach basically is the boss, and he's instilled confidence in us that his structures that are in place are going to work. We just need to apply it out on the field."
Without Foran there will inevitably be even more attention on Cherry-Evans but he is adamant that won't get to him.
"I definitely don't feel as though there is pressure on me," he said.
"The expectations that people set externally, away from this joint, won't quite get to where I set the standards for myself."
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