Back in the side for this week’s clash against the Parramatta Eels, hooker Manaia Cherrington says he’ll take plenty of confidence and experience from his first stint in the NRL last month — backing himself to be a better player because of it.
The two-time Junior Kiwi international who finished 2014 as the NYC Hooker of the Year, Cherrington made his highly-anticipated first-grade debut in Round 13 against the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval. With Robbie Farah away on State of Origin commitments and Dene Halatau promoted to the starting side, Cherrington came off the bench for the Club’s next two games against the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles, before captain Farah’s return on Sunday against the Penrith Panthers saw him drop back out of the side.
Now, with the skipper once again unavailable as he represents the Blues, the wiry Cherrington is back in the side once more, and says he’ll be a better player — and a less nervous one — having already proven to himself he can mix it with the best in the game.
“Of course I’m really excited to be back in the top grade,” Cherrington enthused.
“There’s plenty of confidence to be had [for myself] from having that taste of first-grade.
“I think that coming and playing those three games helped settle the nerves, so I’ll go into this game with plenty of confidence and hopefully we can bounce back with a win.”
Cherrington is the first to admit, however, that there’s still plenty to improve on.
Denied a try after being held up in-goal in his debut against the Titans, the 20-year-old looked to have made amends the following week when he sent Ava Seumanufagai over untouched under the posts — only for the try to be pulled back for a forward pass.
Then, in his next game against the Sea Eagles, a “frustrated” Cherrington — a word the 20-year-old used himself to describe the game — struggled to get into the game with the same impact, forcing the play a few times as his side went down 30-20 on the night.
With all of that still in mind, the Whangarei-born hooker says he’s determined to make sure he learns from that those three weeks and becomes a better player out of it.
“I definitely learned a lot in that space, and really this year as a whole being in full-time training with the NRL guys,” Cherrington said. “JT, Kiddy, Cammo [Head Coach and Assistant Coaches], they’ve kept it real simple with me and that’s helped.
“They just want me to play my own game and take the opportunity I’ve got.
“I think having that kind of support really helped me focus on the job I’ve got to do.
“But yeah, I know I probably need a bit more patience in what I’m doing. I thought I played in patches against Manly and tended to overplay my hand a little bit.
“So I just want to stay patient, work on my defence and make my tackles.
“And in doing that, I’ll hopefully gain the respect from the players as well.”