Manly fine players over Gladstone curfew breach
Daly Cherry-Evans and his four Manly teammates fined by the club were sanctioned because the whole sorry saga revolving around Jackson Hastings could have been avoided if players hadn't breached curfew – and not because they visited a Gladstone strip club.
The club announced on Tuesday afternoon it had completed its review into the matter, involving five players - not six as originally reported, who breached a team curfew during the recent trip to Gladstone.
"The players involved will each be issued with a formal breach notice and a fine of $1500. The players have accepted full responsibility for their actions and due to welfare and privacy issues, the club will not be publicly disclosing the names of the players. The club now considers the review of this matter complete."
Sea Eagles management, who initially believed a training field confrontation between Cherry-Evans and Hastings was an isolated incident, issued the breach notices for bringing the club into disrepute after a week of damaging coverage, which Akuila Uate had earlier pleaded with the media to end on Tuesday.
Instead, Uate's ire should have been directed at his teammates for their decision to disobey instructions from frustrated Manly coach Trent Barrett and manager Gareth Holmes to return to the team hotel after dinner and a few drinks in the wake of their 32-20 defeat to the Gold Coast.
The club was already dealing with the ongoing issues that had put Hastings offside with teammates since the pre-season, which NRL.com has been told include his unreliability and sometimes volatile personality.
Concerned about his welfare, some players have publicly and privately offered support to Hastings but this does not mean they are at odds with Barrett over his decision to banish the talented playmaker to Blacktown Workers in the Intrust Super Premiership.
However, the players who broke curfew and attended a Gladstone establishment called The Boardroom helped to undermine Barrett when he jumped the gun by fronting an impromptu press conference before training last Wednesday to outline the reasons why Hastings was on the outer.
Barrett was not aware at the time he addressed the media that Cherry-Evans and Hastings had another altercation at Rydges Hotel on the night after the April 8 match at Marley Brown Oval, or that players had breached curfew.
He was attempting to shield his players from having to answer questions about Hastings by taking full ownership of the decision to exile the 22-year-old and outlining how the club had been trying to help him since February.
Less than 12 hours later details emerged on evening television news bulletins of a heated exchange in Hastings's hotel room between the former Roosters playmaker and Cherry-Evans, and the presence of Manly players at a strip club.
While there is no suggestion of misbehaviour by the players, their decision to break curfew can be compared to a similar incident in the Queensland Emerging Origin camp two years ago, which led to eight players being banned from selection in the 2016 series.
The breach came to light after Cronulla winger Valentine Holmes was involved in an incident at a taxi rank in Brisbane.
Melbourne five-eighth Cameron Munster was with him and the pair each received 12-month Origin bans before Maroons officials discovered six other players had also disobeyed instructions not to stay at the team hotel after dinner at a Brisbane pub.
Anthony Milford, Jarrod Wallace, Ben Hunt, Dylan Napa, Edrick Lee and Chris Grevsmuhl were subsequently banned from Queensland selection until last year.
Sea Eagles players tried to put the incident behind them at a team dinner at a Manly restaurant last Thursday night, which was attended by Hastings, who shook hands and hugged Cherry-Evans.
However, their 44-10 capitulation to Parramatta – a team they had beaten 54-0 just five weeks earlier – has sparked speculation about unity within the club, and Uate and fullback Tom Trbojevic were forced to answer questions at training on Tuesday.
"I don't think we're broken, I don't think that," Uate said. "It's just we need to work as a team."
Trbojevic said: "We're a very close footy team. There's certainly no divide".
Uate admitted the fallout from the Gladstone incident was affecting the players and called for the media to allow the Sea Eagles to move on.
"We get dragged down by you guys and to stay positive, you guys can actually help us," he told reporters.
"With this situation, I feel for whoever gets involved because we've got feelings as well and if you drag us down, of course we're not going to be the best player we could be.
"I feel for Chez (Cherry-Evans). He's got three beautiful girls to go to every afternoon, every day, and he comes in and rips in at training and he's done nothing wrong."
With winger Brad Parker sidelined for up to six weeks with a meniscal tear in his left knee, Barrett has only 22 available players while he continues to overlook Hastings.
Winger Jorge Taufua is due to return in round 12 from a broken collarbone, while forwards Curtis Sironen and Kelepi Tanginoa have been ruled out for the season with knee injuries.