Reynolds ready for game of two halfbacks

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 01: Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds of the Rabbitohs celebrate golden point victory after Greg Inglis kicked a field goal during the round five NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Allianz Stadium on April 1, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)HAVEN’T we seen this before?
Nanjing Night Net

A halfback, unknown to most six months ago, playing like a seasoned veteran on his way to rookie of the year and premiership honours?

South Sydney mini-maestro Adam Reynolds is creating the same headlines as the man he’ll go up against tonight, baby-faced Manly pivot Daly Cherry-Evans, did a year ago.

Off the field, the heavily tattooed father of two couldn’t be more different from his blond-haired rival from the Queensland beaches, but on it he is riding the same wave to glory.

Just as Cherry-Evans did last year, Reynolds is playing with the similar composure and class that belies his 20 NRL games experience.

Unlike his predecessor, Chris Sandow, Reynolds doesn’t have the flamboyance that made Sandow so popular with the Rabbitohs faithful.

What Reynolds lacks in style and charisma, he more than compensates in grit and class.

Not only does he possess an accurate kicking game, but his vision and awareness make his boot one of the most revered in the game. It wasn’t that long ago we were complaining about the lack of quality halves coming through the ranks, but the NRL has unearthed some exceptional talent over the past two years, which has eradicated the concern.

It was Cherry-Evans and Warriors whiz-kid Shaun Johnson, both in their first seasons in the NRL, who captured the imaginations of the rugby league world by guiding their teams to the grand final last year. Now Adam Reynolds and Josh Reynolds – no relation – are on the road to doing the same for their respective clubs, competition leaders South Sydney and Canterbury.

Souths coach Michael Maguire wouldn’t be drawn into comparing Reynolds with Cherry-Evans, but praised the NRL’s leading goal-kicker for his ability to overcome a serious knee injury that had him sidelined for all of last year. ”He had a real tough ride last year, having to sit out for a whole season,” Maguire said. ”That was very disappointing for him. To see him come back and do what he’s doing now – I keep talking about the fact that there’s a lot of upside in Adam’s game. He’s continually learning each day.”

Cherry-Evans earned a spot on the Kangaroos Tour last year and was 18th man for the Maroons in game one of this year’s Origin series.

Reynolds hasn’t played in any representative games, but there are already calls for the 22-year-old to replace Mitchell Pearce as the NSW halfback.

A premiership would help his cause, but he and halves partner John Sutton will have to overcome a 34-year hoodoo to lead the Bunnies to their first title since 1971. Not since Manly’s Steve Martin and Alan Thompson in 1978 has a pair of halves with no previous representative experience guided a team to premiership success.

South Sydney and the Bulldogs are the only teams in the top eight without a representative play-making duo, but they are firming as grand final opponents.

While Maguire heaped credit on Reynolds, he highlighted the combination with five-eighth John Sutton as one of the reasons behind his halfback’s meteoric rise, as well as Reynolds’s study of his rival No.7s.

”He looks at everyone in the game,” Maguire said. ”He had a bit of time last year to sit back and study the [Johnathan] Thurstons and the [Cooper] Cronks, and all the other players in the game, but he’s building his own name now. He’s just a really mature kid. He pushes the team around with ‘Sutto’ – he and Sutto have got a great combination together.”

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