Controversial choice: Clive Churchill medallist Dale Cherry-Evans offloads during the grand final. Photo: Brendan Esposito Sonny Bill Williams came good in the last 10 minutes, says McCarthy. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
Test selector Bob McCarthy admitted it “didn’t look all that good” that the Clive Churchill medallist from Sunday’s grand final came from the beaten side, but he was also bullish in his belief that Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans deserved the accolade.
Cherry-Evans was awarded man-of-the-match honours by the four Australian selectors – McCarthy, Bob Fulton, Des Morris and Alan Smith – following the Roosters’ 26-18 victory, prompting some sections of the crowd to boo the Sea Eagles player.
While he would not reveal whether the vote was unanimous, McCarthy – who said he cast his with about five minutes remaining – conceded that some selectors were more comfortable with the decision than others.
“We get told to pick the best player on the ground, and the best player on the ground was Cherry-Evans,” McCarthy said. “Whether he came from Easts or Manly … it’s just how it was. It’s happened before. He was the best player on the ground.
“Every time he got the ball he was dangerous. If Manly had won … there’d be none of this. Manly were leading 18-8, and it was Cherry-Evans.
“Then when Easts came over the top, it was still Cherry-Evans. No one really took it off him.
“Cherry-Evans was just the best player. I know it didn’t look all that good, but that’s the way it is. We’re like the referees; we’re not going to please everyone.”
Many believed the award should have been given to Jake Friend, Sam Moa, James Maloney or Sonny Bill Williams from the winning side.
McCarthy said he felt Moa was the Roosters’ best but did not deserve the accolade due to his limited time on the field.
“Would you give it to Maloney?” McCarthy said. “What did he do? Twice he got caught with nothing to do, and he put the ball in the air and they scored a try. He was cornered. That was luck. You can’t give a Churchill Medal for that, or for kicking four goals.
“I think Sam Moa was possibly their best player, but he played 45 minutes. You can’t give a bloke a Churchill Medal for that. But that 45 minutes was quality.”
Of Williams, he said: “Sonny was awful in first half. He came good with 10 minutes to go when Manly had their two front-rowers and Watmough off the field.”
Asked about the sight of Cherry-Evans receiving his award amidst a chorus of boos, McCarthy said: “That’s got nothing to do with us. That’s the Roosters supporters. If they look at the game, and watch it again, they’ll see he was the best player on the field.”
After the match, Cherry-Evans described winning the medal as bitter sweet. His bitter-sweet few days continued on Monday, when he was selected in the Australian World Cup squad. Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens even revealed the Manly playmaker could challenge Cooper Cronk or Johnathan Thurston for a starting halves spot during the tournament.
“Over a six-week tournament, Cherry-Evans will certainly throw down the gauntlet, for sure,” Sheens said. “But knowing Cooper and knowing Johnathan, they’ll be ready for the challenge. Daly’s shown that he can play some utility as well – he did that for Queensland this year – so it’s not a matter that he won’t be considered within a 17-man squad either.”
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.