No one at Manly may admit it but Brisbane veteran Sam Thaiday says Daly Cherry-Evans’ contract drama is behind the last-placed Sea Eagles’ horror NRL season.
However, Thaiday believes it’s wrong to heap all blame on the star halfback.
Months of speculation must end by next Tuesday when Cherry-Evans will be committed to either staying with Manly or taking up the four-year deal he agreed with Gold Coast.
No stranger to rumours himself, the off-contract Thaiday had no doubt the constant scrutiny over Cherry-Evans’ future had helped derail Manly’s season.
But he could also empathise with his Queensland teammate ahead of Brisbane’s NRL clash with Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
“It is a huge distraction for a team, not knowing what your key player is doing,” Thaiday said.
“I think it is an underlying factor for the reason why they are playing the way they are playing.
“(But) you can’t put all the blame on DCE.
“I am sure he knows what he is doing, it’s just everyone else has no idea.”
Cherry-Evans signed a lucrative four-year deal with the Titans in March.
However under NRL rules, he has until after round 13 – which concludes on Monday night – if he wants to back out of that deal and stay at Manly.
Cherry-Evans has not discussed his intentions since he reluctantly fronted the media on April 20, saying: “From my end there’s nothing to report and I don’t think there’ll be anything to report for the rest of the season in regards to changes to my contract.”
That did nothing to dampen speculation that Manly were desperately trying to woo him to stay with a much-upgraded offer.
Manly back-rower Tom Symonds stuck to the club’s script on Tuesday, insisting the contract saga had not been a problem for the injury-hit team, who have won only three of 11 matches this season.
“I think you guys (the media) worry about it more than we do to be honest,” he said.
“Round 13 is this week so after that hopefully you guys will come up with a few new headlines.
“There are a lot of players that have signed with other clubs, they’ve all got until the end of this week as well so I’m not sure why he’s the only person that’s under scrutiny.
“There’s players at every club who have decided to go on and transfer clubs so there’s other guys who are hiding under the radar a bit.”
Meanwhile, Thaiday said the Broncos were preparing for Cherry-Evans to overcome a shoulder complaint and run out in their Friday night clash.