Cherry-Evans focus 'impossible to comprehend'
The intensity of the spotlight shining on Daly Cherry-Evans when he last visited Brisbane to play the Broncos was something that even teammates could not comprehend.
His contract negotiations between the Titans and Sea Eagles dominated the headlines for the first three months of the season last year as speculation intensified that the deal he had struck to move to the Gold Coast was looking ever more tenuous.
When his name was announced at Suncorp Stadium in Round 13 last year it – and every subsequent touch of the footy – was met with a chorus of disapproval from Queensland rugby league fans who 12 days later would struggle to cheer him as one of their own due to the manner in which he reneged on the Titans deal.
Twelve months on and you would have to imagine that any verbal barrage from the stands will relate directly to what occurs over the course of 80 minutes and not hark back to when a proud Queenslander decided not to move back to Queensland.
Early in the season as the Sea Eagles began a new era under Trent Barrett the expectation on Cherry-Evans appeared to be weighing heavily but close friend Nate Myles says that the only pressure he sees affecting the Manly No.7 is coming from within.
"Daly's a very proud person, I think the pressure comes from the way he wants to be," Myles said ahead of the sold out double-header.
"I know the team doesn't put everything on him. We've got some great players in our side so it doesn't all fall on Daly.
"I don't think [the pressure] is put on by anyone else, I just think Daly's a professional and I don't think he's even close to where he can be at the moment. The last two weeks he's really bounced along.
"I've seen what he can do on the field and over the last couple of weeks he has shown a slow progression. I can feel it around training too that he's getting a bit more dominant with his voice."
Brenton Lawrence has returned to the Manly team in 2016 after surgery on his spine kept him to a solitary appearance last season and praised the way Cherry-Evans had been able to move forward after such an intense period in his life.
"In my opinion he has handled it really well," Lawrence told NRL.com.
"It's never nice when people are saying bad things but you have a choice to either kick stones or forget about it and think about the things you can do.
"'Chez' is a very confident bloke and I think he handles himself well to be honest. He's in a situation that almost no one can relate to. In that respect it's hard for anyone to comment, because you don't know what he's been through, myself included."
For the man himself, the 2016 season to date has been about searching for consistency in his own performance and that of the team.
His three try assists from six games are well down on his return of 18 from last year and he has just five tackle busts compared to the 41 he amassed in 2016.
He is slowly developing a combination with inexperienced five-eighth Dylan Walker and facing an uphill battle to win back a Maroons jersey that he last wore in State of Origin II last year but says he is content to be focusing solely on what happens on the field.
"I genuinely have enjoyed staying out of the spotlight," Cherry-Evans said. "Those who know me understand that's not the sort of life that I like to lead.
"I'm very fortunate this year that I have a lot of things settled away from rugby league so now the test for me is to continue to develop as a rugby league player.
"When all is said and done that's what you want to do as a player, to worry about your actual football and to develop that.
"Before the bye I played 'JT' (Johnathan Thurston) and Michael Morgan which is a great challenge. We fell short as a side and myself individually wasn't up to it against them so I get another challenge this week personally to play against arguably the two best young halves in Queensland."