DCE's newfound focus
Daly Cherry-Evans credits the fact Trent Barrett is a recently retired playmaker with improving his game by helping him find his focus.
The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles captain is into his second season being coached by Barrett, who hung up the boots in 2010 after a stellar career which included 235 first-grade games in the No.6 and at No.7 jerseys at the Illawarra Steelers, St George Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks, the 2000 Dally M medal, as well as 11 appearances for NSW and 15 Tests for Australia.
"He's been really, really good to work with. The first year he was here he gave me a lot of time to try and develop my game," Cherry-Evans told NRL.com.
"He was really good on what my focus should be leading into games and how my preparation should look.
"It's not to say my other coaches (Des Hasler, Geoff Toovey) didn't help me with that. But Trent was a much more current halfback having retired not all that long ago (2010). So he still had a really good understanding of where the game is at in regards to preparation and what's now required as the game has changed."
DCE is enjoying the empathy he shares with Barrett as they try to return Manly to the glory days of 2005-2014 when the Sea Eagles were part of 10 straight NRL playoff campaigns, including four grand finals and two premierships in 2008 and 2011.
There is a feeling around Sydney's northern beaches that the Sea Eagles, under Barrett and Cherry-Evans' leadership, are on the verge of domination again.
The biggest Barrett influence on the 29-year-old halfback's game has been the larger stamp he has on each match.
"Last year I loved my involvement. I loved the way I was involved throughout our games," he said.
"It might be hard to judge that, or put a stat against it, but I know when I walk off the field if I've had enough involvement in that game of football.
"I'm always going to continue on the kicking, the passing, the tackling – and those things are easy to stat – I want to be busier this year. I want to be in everything this year within my role.
"I don't want to overstep my role in the side because we've all got clear roles to play out, but there's room in my role to improve and grow again this season."
Barrett has been a rock for the players as match-fixing allegations and then salary cap breaches emerged in media reports. The NRL cleared the club on the former and fined them on the latter. That breach notice is still in discussion between Sea Eagles management and the NRL integrity unit.
"One of Trent's best assets is his honesty," Cherry-Evans said.
"Everyone knows on the club where they stand with Trent and when our club has come into situations of media scrutiny, whether it's salary cap, betting scandals or team form, he does address it with us.
"He makes it very clear what we can control and what we can't and how we go about that balance. Trent is very good on making us focus on what is important."
After forward Brenton Lawrence retired at the end of 2017, Cherry-Evans is the sole survivor from Manly's 2011 Telstra Premiership-winning side.
"That sounds sad. But it is important to me to use my powers for the betterment of this side," he said.
"I'd hate for people to look at me within the four walls of Manly and think 'This guy is only trying to help himself'. I like to keep a very optimistic and very wholesome approach to our team and how we play and how the mood is around the place.
"While it may look like I'm out there on my own on the leadership front, I can assure you there are those in our side who might not look like senior players but they most certainly are.
"They make my job easier and they are the ones I go to. Someone that has helped like that in a quick amount of time is Joel Thompson. He's played 200 games of first grade and while he may never have captained his former club, I know how much of a leader he must have been down there (at the Dragons) because his influence has been instant here.
"He's been great for me to talk to and help implement the standards we want here."