DCE: Silver lining in Titans contract saga
It is three years since Daly Cherry-Evans reneged on a four-year deal with Gold Coast Titans by recommitting with the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
A world of pain descended on the then 26-year-old, father of two, throughout those deliberations.
The headlines weren't kind and the name-calling was pretty intense. The media camped outside his home.
On Sunday, Cherry-Evans faces the Titans for the third time since that dramatic turn of events in round five Telstra Premiership action at Marley Brown Oval, in the central Queensland coastal city of Gladstone.
Once again his name is in the headlines – and it relates back to that eight-year, $10 million contract he signed in June 2015. This time the debate is whether the third-party agreements in it were part of salary cap breaches Manly have been fined $750,000 for. The club is appealing the penalties.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said last week no current players in the Sea Eagles squad had question marks over their contracts. The sanctions relate to up to 15 former players over the past five years.
Cherry-Evans tried to clear the air after the 32-16 win over Canberra last weekend.
"It's certainly not nice when your name is attached to something like that," he said.
"I certainly wasn't surprised that they [media] somehow found a way to put my name in front of it."
Sitting with NRL.com in the stands at Lottoland, Cherry-Evans knows his Titans saga will always be part of his story. But he also knows he changed a piece of rugby league contracting history.
"I thought of this the other day," he said with a wry smile.
"I'd like to think my rugby league success would have a bigger bearing on people's perception of me. But when it's all said and done, I'm not naive to think that I haven't changed the rules.
"I tell you why I don't cringe about it or feel awkward about it. The rule being changed because of what I went through has meant I've helped shape that side of the game.
"The game certainly looks a lot better, a lot cleaner, not as messy anymore, where contracts are concerned."
Cherry-Evans had bought a house at Mermaid Beach so he fully intended going to the Titans. But after he changed his mind, the public outcry of it all prompted the NRL to change the rules.
The NRL scrapped the round 13 deadline, which allowed a player signed for another club for the next season to go back on their word and re-sign with their current club before that mid-year, June 30, date.
The game's governing body replaced it with a 10-day cooling off period for any new contract and it became known as "the Cherry-Evans rule".
That too has now been scrapped under the new collective bargaining agreement signed last December by the NRL and the RLPA so players have no escape route out of a deal.
The move is designed to take some power away from player managers.
Cherry-Evans looks back on that time and knows it made him stronger and wiser.
"No one got hurt; no-one was injured; no one was sick. So the reality is it wasn't too bad a situation," he said.
"But what it did do was take me and my family through the papers for a very long time … a lot longer than anyone anticipated or wanted. So, in hindsight, it was a very tough part of my life and my career.
"But it certainly shaped the person I am today and I have no regrets about what happened. Things could have been done differently but that's certainly not a regret.''
He said he had seen former Titans chairwoman and now part-owner, Rebecca Frizelle, several times since, and the pair had been "pleasant" to each other.
But the experience of 2015 means he does not engage on social media, apart from an Instagram account that has been fairly dormant, although he's contemplating rebooting.
"I'm thinking of using it a bit this year. I post no photos of my family but I would like the fans to see how much fun it is around the boys at training and at games.
"I'm proud to show that side of Manly to a larger audience."