Dolphins hooker Manaia Cherrington says he’s much wiser than he was when he lost his love of footy, while playing NRL, and is now firmly focused on reaching his potential.
For him, that means playing good football every week for the Dolphins and hopefully getting another shot at doing it on the big stage.
But the 26-year-old is not obsessed with thoughts of playing NRL and is just happy to be playing again after more than a year off.
He played for Souths Logan in 2019, but before that had risen through the Wests Tigers system to the NRL as a 20-year-old.
“I played a few years at the Tigers, had a little stint at the Sharks and then also at the Warriors a couple of years ago. Now, I find myself here trying to get back into it,” Cherrington said.
“That’s still the dream and the drive. I’ve got to put in some good performances hopefully and see where it takes me.”
His roommate Jordan Grant played with the Dolphins in 2019 and Cherrington said he was weighing up a season at Redcliffe or Wynnum, when the choice became clear.
“I spoke to Moggy (Adam Mogg) and I spoke to the Wynnum coach and I fitted in with Moggy and what he wanted and Crusher (Grant Cleal) as well,” he explained.
“I think it’s the culture and the high standards here. That’s the type of player I want to be. I want to be a player that has high standards and be pretty honest with myself.”
The side has had one win and one loss from the first two rounds of the Intrust Super Cup season, and while the loss to Norths Devils was not what Cherrington hoped for it has given him and the team plenty to work on.
“The game’s sped up a lot I’ve noticed in the first two games and even in the trials we got towelled-up against Souths but obviously came back but it’s definitely an attacking game,” he said.
“I know games are won on defence but with the new six-again rule – if you’re not fit, if you’re not completing at 85 per cent it’s a struggle to win a game. Then again, we have to have confidence in ourselves to bounce back.
“Those are two lessons I’ve learnt – man it’s fast, real fast – if you’re not fit enough, if you’re not ready mentally, you get blown off the park.”
It’s a tempo that suits Cherrington’s game.
“I try to base my game around Brandon Smith, who’s a running hooker or Damien Cook. I’m a running hooker, so it does suit me and that’s another reason I’m really excited too,” he said.
“I just take each game as it comes. I’ll just try to be all-ears with the coaching staff. Look who we have here – we have Adam Mogg who’s done it all, Justin Hodges who’s done it all and Scotty Hill,” he said.
“Just being around a young group here who are keeping you on your toes is good. One thing with me is probably preparation - I’ve got to just make sure I take that on board.
“This next 12 months is massive. It could make or break me. I’m at the age now where I’ve got to really put all my eggs into one basket and give footy another crack.
When I look back … when I was playing NRL I had a lot of distractions from outside of football but now I’m in a good mindset, have no distractions and really it’s up to me to make it happen.”
He said he was definitely older and wiser and had learnt some valuable lessons along the way.
“One thing, looking back at it, you’ve got to fall in love with the journey. This is all a part of it and back then I was pretty Stubborn. Going through the juniors and into the NRL at a pretty young age, I debuted when I was young, 20, and thought it was all just going to happen.
“I don’t want to get too attached on the Warriors (prospect) because at the moment, I’m a Dolphin. I know if I’m doing everything right, potentially I can go up to that level.”
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