Manly coach Trent Barrett has taken a shot at the criticism towards his side after the Sea Eagles secured their first Telstra Premiership Finals appearance since 2014 in a dominating fashion against Penrith on Saturday.
Manly's season was on the ropes after losing five of their last eight games, but their stirring golden point win against the Warriors in the penultimate round was the catalyst for a swing in momentum leading into September football.
Written off by most at the start of the year, Barrett declared the negative media headlines towards Manly's decline had proved the motivator in the final fortnight of the competition.
"Everyone was quick to jump on our form but we've never lost more than two games in a row," Barrett said after the win.
"Everyone was quick to call us an inconsistent side. Well there are 10 more inconsistent sides behind us and that's what irked me.
"It irked everyone and that's why it's so satisfying to finish the season where we have because we copped it in the year.
"But we're there now and have got a real opportunity to do something special as a team."
Barrett made particular note of the change in the last fortnight after the Sea Eagles suffered shock losses to the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs.
"It was a real test of character for the side," he said.
"I always knew it would come back but whether it would be quick enough I wasn't sure.
"Everyone's goal was to make the semi-finals and now we have we don't want to go out the back door either."
The coach was adamant that if Manly could come out with the same intent and energy, they would prove hard to beat for any side in week one of the finals.
"If we turn up with that attitude again we'll be okay," Barrett said.
"I knew we'd be hard to beat with the occasion and the crowd.
"I thought our forwards did a good job and ambushed them."
Barrett's comments to the critics brought a sense of the old-school Sea Eagles' mentality following the club's official farewell to legends Brett Stewart and Matt Ballin before the game.
He believes the legacy left by the pair, along with Steve Matai, Glen Stewart and Anthony Watmough, have created the culture that continues to be driven at present.
"[The farewell] was important for the whole club, they're special players that won a lot of premierships and built the culture that we've got," Barrett said.
"I think it's still alive and kicking, now it's Cherry's (Daly Cherry-Evans) job as captain and the Trbojevic brothers to carry that forward."
Cherry-Evans was confident the side could get past the first week of the finals with their X-factor style of play.
"We don't feel we can only go down one edge, we have a strong middle and strike players on both sides," he said.
"We had an open game plan across the park and that's the biggest strength of this side."
Meanwhile, Barrett was confident interchange prop Addin Fonua-Blake would be fine to play next week after suffering a leg injury against the Panthers.
Gold Coast-bound prop Brenton Lawrence, along with Jarrad Kennedy and Pita Godinet, were confirmed departures by the club before kick-off.