Manly: A club divided

It’s safe to say, 2018 has not been the finest year in a long, grand history for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

On-field, positive results have been hard to come by and the team are languishing amongst the lower reaches of the competition ladder. The football has been unspectacular and clunky, with little to no chemistry or solid combinations week to week and the results have been understandably erratic off the back of that.

Perhaps the results in two games against the last-placed Parramatta Eels tell much of the story. After a surprise first-start loss to the Knights, Manly bounced back and battered the Eels 54-0 at the crudely named Lottoland.

Just five weeks later, a 44-10 defeat at the hands of the same side, one which has looked barely credible as an NRL outfit for much of 2018. You couldn’t script it, or, if you did, it’d be shot down as too farfetched.

Coming apart at the seams

Unfortunately for Manly, a piece-meal roster patched together under the strain of a big-money contract to halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and dead cap space for players long departed has found its limits and a coach still yet to properly make his mark at the top level has struggled to find the necessary groove to compete each week.

Of much more long-term concern, however, the off-field dramas that have engulfed the northern beaches club for so long seem to finally be taking their toll.

In their pomp, the Sea Eagles seemingly dealt with salary cap issues, back-ended contracts, player rifts and coaching issues better than anyone. Consistent premiership years, and Grand Final wins were often back-lit by underlying issues and rumblings, but the Sea Eagles juggernaut appeared unstoppable, unshakeable in a quest to continue dominance over the league.

Today, the glory years of the last decade or so appear a distant memory.

Choc weighs in

Once considered a club legend and a huge part of the consistent premiership success of the club under Des Hasler and Geoff Toovey, Anthony Watmough, now retired, has further opened the can of worms surrounding the club with his explosive comments regarding halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.

Seemingly upset at DCE's huge dollar deal to stay at the club after back-flipping on the Titans, Watmough wasted little time taking shots at his former teammate on the Hello Sport podcast.

Watmough's comments seem to stem from the post-2011 premiership period when players like himself, Jamie Lyon and brothers Brett and Glenn Stewart reportedly took below-market deals to stick together and prolong the successful period the club was enjoying.

DCE seemingly didn't have the same approach.

Watmough suggested Cherry-Evans would skip training until he received an improved deal, which he did heading into 2012. The belief coming from this is that the dollars chewed up by the DCE deal fast-tracked the departures of Watmough, the Stewarts and others.

"I said 'mate you just signed a f***ing four-year deal, you turn up to training', Watmough said.

"He (Cherry-Evans) goes 'Nup. My manager told me not to'.

"Not to turn up to training ... I've looked after him, gave him whatever he wanted as a kid. Always made sure he didn't want for anything.

"I said to him 'mate, you know what we've sacrificed to stay together, to be successful. Your time will come' and he just looked me straight in the eye and went 'nah, not turning up'', Watmough added before suggesting he spoke with then-coach Geoff Toovey about not paying the rising star.

Where to now?

While some Manly fans and the ever-critical Twitter crowd seem happy to latch onto Choc Watmough's story and lay into Cherry-Evans, there are as many fans who seem happy to accept that Watmough's account is nothing more than sour grapes well after the fact.

Whichever side ends up being right, the latest spat is symptomatic of the malaise around the club right now.

The Sea Eagles are a shadow of the premiership force they were for a decade or so and the obvious frustration is mounting.

Brookvale Oval is falling apart and in desperate need of a revamp while the playing group seems well under-strength and unable to compete at the highest level.

Many are still not convinced about the coaching credentials of Trent Barrett either.

DCE's reported feud with youngster Jackson Hastings also smacks of a senior player confident that the club and management staff will back him regardless of whether or not he's in the right.

There's probably a long way to go before the whole story unfolds and we truly know what's going on behind the scenes at the famous club, but between now and then, idle speculation will run rife.

Do you think Daly Cherry-Evans is the problem at the club, or is Anthony Watmough just airing old grievances to remain relevant? Let us know in the comments below.

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