Titans 'disillusioned' by DCE decision
He was pinned as the poster boy for a new golden age for rugby league on the Gold Coast so it was little wonder Titans officials looked so disconsolate after the news broke that Daly Cherry-Evans had reneged on the four-year deal he had signed with the club in March.
Titans CEO Graham Annesley only learned of Cherry-Evans's decision to stay and sign a "lifetime contract" with the Sea Eagles when contacted by members of the media on Wednesday morning, coach Neil Henry receiving a call at 10.40am from the man himself informing him of his decision.
It's the latest kick in the guts to a club doggedly determined to develop a firm underbelly in the wake of numerous off-field incidents and one that left Annesley visibly upset.
"Disillusioned is a better word than angry," Annesley said. "He hasn't broken any rules... but you'd like to think when someone makes a commitment that they honour that commitment. He, for his own reasons, has decided not to do that, and there's nothing we can do about it.
"I'm very disappointed that we weren't told in the first instance before it hit the media.
"Daly was signed, we did everything right, we've done everything right up until this day. We've worked within the rules as they exist; we've not applied any additional pressure to him since he signed the contract.
"It's obviously had an enormous impact on our club in the fact that we have made recruitment and retention decisions based on the personnel we thought we would have in place for next year.
"That's now changed, so we'll reassess, we'll regroup and Neil and his staff will get on with plugging those holes."
Henry's recruitment strategy was thrown on its head on Wednesday morning when Cherry-Evans rang to tell him he would be staying at Brookvale, Henry revealing that offers tabled to both Nate Myles and Aidan Sezer had been impacted by the impending arrival of Cherry-Evans.
Myles and Sezer are now headed to Manly and Canberra respectively in 2016 and Henry and recruitment manager Jamie Mathiou have to look elsewhere to invest their now bulging war chest.
"I'd be lying to say I wasn't disappointed in his decision given what we'd done and the conversations we'd had before," Henry said.
"We deliberately decided to leave each other alone, he was getting on with his work at Manly and I was getting on with coaching this side so we left it at that.
"There hadn't been a lot of dialogue between us but obviously there's been some dialogue with his management and Manly.
"There was a considerable amount of work that had to happen for Daly to come on board to start off with and it's a credit to our board and the people who were able to put a deal together that was going to entice him to come north and we did everything that his management required and that was quite complex.
"The impact has been significant because with such a marquee player it did limit us with our recruitment and our recruitment strategy going along with the fact that he was going to be here and factoring that into next year's salary cap."
As Henry ruled out looking to the English Super League for Cherry-Evans's replacement, the three most high-profile halves on the market for 2016 – Trent Hodkinson (Bulldogs), James Maloney (Roosters) and Chris Sandow (Eels) – now become prime Titans targets, and all fit Henry's stated list of requirements.
"We probably need some experience in the halves... goal-kicking would be an advantage," said Henry, who denied the club had been working on any contingencies should the Cherry-Evans deal fall through.
"It was really pointless to put an expression of interest in for a player given that we didn't know if it was going to happen. We'll just have to have a look in the market now."