The richest contract in rugby league history and a reputation tarnished was the price as Manly secured one of the NRL’s premier playmakers.
Daly Cherry-Evans, 26, backflipped on a rich four-year deal with Gold Coast to remain at the Sea Eagles for the duration of his career on a contract believed to be worth over $1 million a season and potentially $10 million over its entirety.
“It probably doesn’t look very honourable the actions I’ve taken over the last 48 hours,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I understand that, but there’s only one thing that could have changed the honour of my word, and that’s how important my family is to me.”
Despite Cherry-Evans rightly claiming he did nothing wrong, as the NRL allows players to backflip on deals until the end of round 13, it was a huge black eye for the game when the deal was announced.
The Titans thought they had their man and who could blame them with Cherry-Evans making statements like this on April 20: “I understand speculation will continue until round 13 but from my end there is nothing to report and I don’t think there will be anything to report until the end of the season in regards to changes to my contract.”
The brilliant halfback admitted he played a part in keeping the story bubbling along.
“I definitely left the door open for this speculation to continue, because, to be honest, I always was curious to know what offer was going to be on the table from Manly,” he said.
“I haven’t broken any rules. I’ve played within the rules which has given me the opportunity to announce my stay here.”
Securing Cherry-Evans comes on the back of signing his Queensland State of Origin teammate Nate Myles, and skipper Jamie Lyon believed securing the halfback’s future could help spark the last-placed Sea Eagles’ season.
“I think it will. We’ve played pretty well the last couple of weeks without getting a win, so hopefully it’s the boost to get us back to where we belong,” Lyon said.
“It’s a great coup for the club and we’re all excited to have him extend his stay. We’re all pumped about the decision.”
Cherry-Evans said his decision was only made in the past 48 hours and that he sympathised with the Titans after telling coach Neil Henry the news.
“They were extremely disappointed, which is understandable,” he said.
“But to be honest, Neil (Henry) was very happy that I made the call personally and that he didn’t have to hear it second hand … I couldn’t apologise enough to Neil.”
The playmaker’s contract could potentially be worth around $10 million and is believed to be similar in price and structure to the open-ended deal AFL superstar Buddy Franklin signed with the Sydney Swans two years ago.
Cherry-Evans rejected the Sea Eagles’ initial contract before they came again.
“If we all remember, there wasn’t an offer on the table when I made my last decision (with the Titans),” he said.
“I’m sincerely sorry to Gold Coast Titans the club and I hope they understand this was a decision that was made best for me and my family.
“They probably have a right to be a little bit angry to be fair.”