Cherry-Evans cringed this week when reminded about the Instagram snap.
“Manly’s favourite son? That’s right. But Foz [Foran] has got a bit more competition now with Jake and Tom [Trbojevic] there,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I know Foz has been welcomed back by the playing group and the fans will get behind him as well because they’re loyal to successful teams and successful players, and Foz is one of those.”
There have been a fair few owners of the Manly No.6 jersey since Foran played his last game with Cherry-Evans against Cronulla at the end of 2015.
It is almost 10 years since they helped deliver Manly’s last title.
Cherry-Evans has huge respect for the five-eighths that have come and gone since, but it’s clear how grateful he is to have his “partner in crime” back. It’s a reunion he never thought would happen.
“I thought that ship had sailed,” Cherry-Evans said. “The best way to describe it now is nostalgic. It’s really taken me back to some really successful times and special moments at the club.
“Our relationship has picked up where it was. Sure, we’re not the same people we were 10 years ago, but we have a lot in common when it comes to where we are in life and our goals and excitement levels for this squad.”
Foran landed back at Manly late last year after Canterbury decided not to re-sign the 213-game veteran. The 30-year-old had struggled with injuries and was desperate to repay the Belmore club for standing by him. But the Bulldogs are taking a different direction under new coach Trent Barrett.
There was speculation about Foran heading to Newcastle to join good friend Mitchell Pearce. He was due to be at Pearce’s wedding, which was cancelled late last month after the Knights half was alleged to have sent suggestive text messages to another woman.
‘The best way to describe it now is nostalgic. It’s really taken me back to some really successful times and special moments at the club.’
Cherry-Evans on reuniting with Foran
But rugby league romantics wanted Foran to return to Manly; back where it began with Cherry-Evans and master Manly mentor Des Hasler.
Former Bulldogs coach Hasler splashed the cash to get Foran to Canterbury and is a fan of his old-school, no-nonsense approach to the game. Cherry-Evans won’t admit it, but he also played a pivotal role in making sure Foran pulled on the maroon and white again.
After a few weeks on the training paddock, the duo say it feels like they have never been apart. The only thing that has changed is their appetite to win a premiership, which is greater than ever.
“One thing that still exists between us when we’re the No.6 and No.7 is we don’t care which side of the ruck the ball has to go to, as long as it goes the right way,” Cherry-Evans said.
“We never cared who got the credit, as long as the team was winning. That’s all that mattered, and it’s still the same.”
Foran says of Cherry-Evans: “When ‘Chez’ came back after Christmas, I remember looking over and seeing him on the right-hand side of the field and doing his thing.
“To think all those years ago we were running around as 20- and 21-year-olds, now we’re in our 30s and playing alongside each other and living the dream.
“We’ve got so much more experience now, life experience. We’ve been through our fair share, and it’s a cool feeling playing alongside a bloke who not only did I have so much success alongside but a bloke I’ve connected with throughout my career.
“To come back and hopefully finish my career alongside him, I can’t say how grateful I am.”
So what makes Cherry-Evans and Foran such a successful combination, after winning a title together in 2011 and losing to the Roosters two years later in the decider during a vintage run for the northern beaches club? Will it be a case of them hitting the ground running again in round one? Josh Schuster is another five-eighth option, but he is only 19 and should consider himself lucky to learn from two of the best in the business.
Cherry-Evans likens Foran’s presence to that of Cameron Munster in the Queensland team, and is excited about the freedom it could bring him on the field.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing alongside Foz, purely for the experience he brings,” Cherry-Evans said.
“It will naturally free me up to play a different role. I won’t reinvent the wheel with the way I play, but when you play with a dominant half, such as Munster in Origin, it brought out a different side in my game and hopefully that happens alongside Kieran.
“Last year I fell into the trap of trying to control too much. That Origin series, I felt I didn’t have to do that. Wherever the ball went was the right way to go, and that’s the mentality I have with Kieran being here.”
Foran played finals the first six years of his career, but bombed out before September the next six. Injuries have not helped. His body, hamstrings, back and toes have so far survived Hasler’s summer of pain.
Should Foran remain on the park, along with Cherry-Evans and the Trbojevic brothers, Sea Eagles fans are entitled to dream about a top-four finish.
Cherry-Evans never stops aiming high. Nor does Manly’s favourite son.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.