Rookie coach Trent Barrett has warned Manly fans and players to brace themselves for more pain, as injuries and off-field scandals take their toll on the NRL club.
The Sea Eagles face the prospect of being without stars Daly Cherry-Evans and Jamie Lyon for the next month, and veteran prop Brenton Lawrence for possibly longer, through injury.
Cherry-Evans re-injured his ankle, Lyong hurt his hamstring and Lawrence tore a pectoral muscle – which will need surgery – in their brutal 30-18 loss to Canberra at GIO Stadium on Friday night.
The trio join a star-studded casualty ward, with Feleti Mateo (calf), Jorge Taufua (infection/collarbone) and Steve Matai (neck) still recovering from their respective injuries.
It capped off what had been a horror couple of days for the club, amid allegations two of their games from last season were being investigated for potential match-fixing.
While the Sea Eagles are yet to be contacted by NSW Police following the announcement of their probe on Thursday, chief executive Joe Kelly admitted speculation was hurting the team and brand.
In an unusual appearance at the post-match press conference, Kelly urged authorities to bring forward any evidence to substantiate the “unfounded” claims before further damage was done to the game and club.
“We’d certainly like it to be resolved as quick as possible,” he said.
But Barrett knows it’ll be a while before the dust settles.
“Things could get worse before they get better,” he said.
“We’ve got some young players in there who have never been through anything like this before and we’ve just got to stick together and keep working hard.”
Barrett said the off-field drama was an unwanted distraction for the club, who have now lost four games in a row.
But he said the players were in a pretty good headspace leading into the Raiders match, and that showed when they scored two late tries to claw their way back from a 30-6 deficit with an empty bench.
“I’m really proud of their effort – it could’ve got pretty ugly with no reserves,” he said.
“We’ve got some young blokes in there who are a bit bewildered as to what’s going on, but like I said to them, when we do get back on the winner’s front and we do have some good times ahead, they’re going to appreciate it a helluva lot more.
“The only way out of it is to keep working hard and stick together.
“Weak people will go off on their own, the strong ones will stick together and lead us out of it. And that’s what I plan to do.”
The Sea Eagles host Penrith on Sunday week.