Manly: It's not just about our halves
Manly players say it's unfair to heap criticism on the club's under-siege halves because the entire playing squad needs to take equal responsibility for the side's unexpected last-place ladder position after six rounds.
Senior centre Steve Matai said the slump was reminiscent of the side's 0-5 start to the 2009 season after winning the 2008 Grand Final, from which the side recovered to finish fifth after 26 rounds, and insisted the team fully expects to play finals football for an 11th straight season in 2015.
"Our form's been down the last few weeks but we're the only ones that can turn it around," Matai said.
"In 2009 I think it was, after winning the premiership in '08 I think we lost the first five rounds of the next year so I've been there before and I know what it takes to turn it around. We all just need to focus and have trust in each other.
"It's still early in the year. We lost our first five games in '09 and still finished fifth so we just need to get some momentum going forward in the next few weeks so hopefully we can do that and carry it on through the second half of the year."
Departing star halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans have maintained their usual intensity and professionalism around the group despite the fact the two are heading to Parramatta and the Gold Coast respectively at the end of the year, Matai added, firing a shot at the pair's critics.
"They're not the only two players in the team; there are 17 players on the field and they're taking a lot of that blame but we all win together and we all lose together so it's a bit harsh that they're getting all the criticism," he said.
"They're playing as hard as they can, training as hard, preparing the same, so I guess it's just the media trying to say stuff about them but it doesn't change how we feel about the two boys."
Prop Luke Burgess agreed it was the full squad that needed to take responsibility rather than heaping criticism on the playmakers.
"The halves these days are used to all the criticism," Burgess said. "They're the main players in most teams and when teams aren't winning they seem to cop the brunt of it which is a bit unfair because it's a team sport.
"Amongst the group they're no worse than the rest of us and the boys – Chez and Foz – they've handled themselves really well so there's no dramas there.
"They have a lot of input into how we play and our structures, they're both different players and bring different things to our team so it's good to have input from those guys, working along with the coaches. Speaking a lot to the boys on the training field too so they're both big parts of what we're doing."
Both Matai and Burgess said it would be a tough call on Kangaroos incumbent Cherry-Evans to lose his Test place to in-form Bronco Ben Hunt as a result of the team's below-par performances.
"I'm sure he'd be disappointed, I'm sure he'd want to play for his country any opportunity he can get. He's still an integral part of our team and if he gets picked for the Kangaroos he'll do a good job," Matai said.
Burgess backed Cherry-Evans to hold his spot as well but admitted there may be a silver lining if the representative round handed the halfback a week to rest up and refresh himself.
"Everyone loves representing their country; I'm sure if he missed out he'd be disappointed," Burgess said.
"At the same time we've got a big job to do here so it might give him a chance to rest that week and really focus in on what we do. You can find positives from it too. He's a professional and been around a long time and I'm sure he knows how to deal with the downs as well as the ups."