DCE says 'bring on the pressure'
With every man and his dog giving Manly Buckley's chance of lifting the NRL trophy on October 5, Daly Cherry-Evans has a clear message to those that hate the maroon and white and probably always will.
For months now it's not so much been written and whispered as it has been graffiti-sprayed in 10-foot high letters and shouted with a megaphone: all is not well on the Northern Beaches.
"The lunatics are running the asylum" according to former premiership winning skip Max Krillich. Cherry-Evans is so on the nose with the senior playing group they refuse to stand downwind of the champion half.
Their forwards have a popsicle's chance in hell of rumbling the biggest packs in the league. Geoff Toovey will be dusting off the boots and throwing on the No.9 jumper himself as his dummy-half options drop like flies in a Mortein ad.
Cherry-Evans has heard it all. And as the Sea Eagles gear up for a sudden-death showdown with former coach Des Hasler and his band of Bulldogs, the 25-year-old says the barrage of criticism and speculation is music to the Northern Beaches boys' ears.
"There's always been a siege mentality at this club and it's great to be a part of," Cherry-Evans tells NRL.com.
"I really enjoy being the underdog, none more than right now at this point of the season when we're a few key players short. We'll use whatever motivation we need."
"But in saying that I think we'll have enough motivation within our group motivating us to make the grand final."
Cherry-Evans refused to be drawn on the speculation that his rocky relationship with NSW star Anthony Watmough, as well as the demands of senior trio Watmough, Brett Stewart and Steve Matai for releases, are dragging the team down.
But while statistics can tell fibs from time to time, the No. 7's output over the past two months makes for pretty compelling evidence that all that fussin' and a feudin' reported amongst the Bird Gang is taking its toll.
In the past eight weeks Cherry-Evans has registered just three try assists, while against the Rabbitohs last Friday night he went to the line only twice as the Sea Eagles were belted 40-24 in one of their most humiliating losses in recent memory.
The Queensland halfback has also been battling separate knee and ankle injuries since his return from Origin, but insists he is still enjoying his football and is not fazed by the negative headlines that have engulfed the club.
"The external pressure isn't the reason I play rugby league," Cherry-Evans says.
"I play it because I enjoy it, and I'm still enjoying my footy. Not for one second do I under-appreciate how lucky I am to play in the NRL every week."
"I think my motives are there well and truly before all this external pressure started, and it's just another hurdle we need to jump as a side."
Despite conceding 40 points in under an hour against the Rabbitohs, and now having to make the grand final the hard way, Cherry-Evans is adamant the fact the Sea Eagles did exactly that in 2013 means they cannot be written off as premiership chances.
It's not ideal, but in saying that it's not impossible," Cherry-Evans says. "Just like coming from fifth to eighth is not impossible.
"We can still win this competition... don't get me wrong, it's going down the hard road, but after coming out of last year, when we did have those tough games all in a row and we only just fell short in the grand final, I've got no doubt we can learn from that and take confidence out of it."