DALY Cherry-Evans was booed off the stage when he won the Clive Churchill Medal for the best player on grand final day last year but the Manly halfback will start the 2014 season as the favourite to take out the Dally M Medal.
Cherry-Evans confirmed his standing as one of the game’s genuine superstars in 2013 and he will lead a star-studded field in TAB betting for the NRL’s most prestigious individual prize this year.
Cherry-Evans is the $7 favourite for the Dally M Medal ahead Johnathan Thurston at $9 and Greg Inglis at $11.
Cherry-Evans was the best player on the field for the majority of the grand final but there was plenty of criticism of the judges when he won the medal because the Roosters ended up winning the game and most believed Sonny Bill Williams had the biggest impact on the final result.
But no one could criticise Cherry-Evans’ contribution in that game and after that he went away with the Kangaroos to the World Cup and was unlucky not to steal the starting halfback’s job from Cooper Cronk.
In the end Tim Sheens stuck with Cronk as his top choice halfback but Cherry-Evans beat Robbie Farah for a spot on the bench and was outstanding for the Kangaroos throughout the tournament.
His representative rivalry with Cronk is sure to continue this year in the countdown to State of Origin with some already suggesting it’s only going to be a matter of time before Cherry-Evans takes Cronk’s title as the best number seven in the game.
Cronk finished last year as the Dally M Medal winner just ahead of a three-way tie for second between Cherry-Evans, Thurston and Todd Carney.
Cronk will start 2014 as a $21 Dally M Medal hope along with Mitchell Pearce and Cameron Smith rounding out the top ten.
Plenty are also predicting a huge year for Pearce who was outstanding for the Roosters in their World Club Challenge win over Wigan on the back of his breakthrough NRL finals campaign.
TAB’s Glenn Munsie said Cherry-Evans’ favouritism for the award highlights just how highly he is now rated.
“Marquee players will always dominate a Dally M market,” Munsie said.
“The history of the Dally M shows it is dominated by the players who get their hands on the ball more often than not.
“Cherry-Evans has proven himself as one of the best playmakers in the game and this award is often goes to the best playmakers.”
Sonny Bill Williams won the international player of the year award last year ahead of Inglis but the South Sydney fullback is finally fully fit and is primed for another massive year.
Inglis was the early leader last year for the Dally M Medal before he suffered a knee injury in Origin three that hampered his performances during the back end of the season.
Inglis’ running game was nowhere near its damaging best during the finals but he started to return to his powerful best at the World Cup.
Jarryd Hayne is also expected to have his best year since 2009 after his tremendous World Cup campaign.
“Guys like Inglis, Hayne and Billy Slater will always come into the calculations because they are game-changing players that always attract votes from the judges,” Munsie added.
TOP Ten in TAB Dally M Medal betting:
Daly Cherry-Evans $7
Johnathan Thurston $9
Greg Inglis $11
Shaun Johnson $13
Jarryd Hayne $15
Sonny Bill Williams $15
James Maloney $17
Cooper Cronk $21
Mitchell Pearce $21
Cameron Smith $ 21