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DCE’s ‘up and down ride’ to 300

As Daly Cherry-Evans and Brent Kite took a lap of honour around ANZ Stadium on October 2, 2011, it’s fair to assume neither man could have imagined the slice of rugby league history they would come to share 12 years later.

One just beginning his journey to the 300 Club and the other 234 games down the road, the then 22-year-old rookie and 30-year-old veteran had been key figures in Manly’s grand final win over the Warriors, the second premiership in four years under the watchful eye of Des Hasler.

Kite would depart Brookvale two years later to join Penrith, chalking up game No.300 in Round 17, 2014 against Wests Tigers – 12 years and 111 days after his first-grade debut.

When Cherry-Evans emerges from the WIN Stadium tunnel on Saturday night he will become the 49th player to reach the 300-game mark, 12 years and 139 days since debuting for the Sea Eagles at the start of that premiership season in 2011.

Two Manly premiership heroes, two Clive Churchill Medal winners.

The two fastest men to 300 games in rugby league history.

Whereas Kite would call time on his career in 2015 at the age of 34 with 313 matches to his name, Cherry-Evans is playing some of the best footy of his decorated career and is poised to surpass Cliff Lyons (309) as Manly’s most capped player.

He will then set sail after such luminaries as Brad Fittler (336), Andrew Ettingshausen (328) and Cooper Cronk (323), who also took 12 years and 139 days to reach the 300 mark in 2016.

“At the start of my career I was very ambitious about playing a lot of first grade, not just one game. I had that mentality from the start, but I have probably outdone my expectations as a 12-year-old kid,” Cherry-Evans said of his pending milestone.

“I reckon I have had a pretty up-and-down ride but you grow and you learn from your mistakes. Some lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way but I wouldn’t change a thing.
“I got a lot wrong early in my career as a player but you learn to evolve and you learn to adapt.

“Not everyone likes me, that’s human nature. I’ve had some prickly moments with teammates over the years, I have never shied away from that, but it’s not stuff I look back on and regret.

One of those in DCE’s corner from the very beginning has been Hasler, who took a punt on a raw kid from Queensland and guided him through his early days on Sydney’s northern beaches.

After playing under-20’s for Manly in 2008-09, Cherry-Evans blossomed with Manly’s feeder club Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles, winning the Queensland Cup player of the year in 2010.Convinced he was ready for the bright lights of the NRL, he decided to bite the bullet and approach Hasler and ask for an opportunity.

“Des saw something in me that probably a lot of people didn’t. He was really calculated with how he made me play all my 20’s and then reserve grade,” Cherry-Evans recalled.