Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans.
Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans. Cameron Spencer

Daly's cherry is back on top of Eagles' cake

RUGBY LEAGUE: In June of 2015, when Daly Cherry-Evans announced he was re-signing with the Sea Eagles for the remainder of his career, few players in the modern game were harangued as much for simply playing by the rules.

As most fans would recall, Cherry-Evans had previously agreed to join the Titans on a four-year deal reportedly worth $1.1 million a season. But under a ludicrous NRL rule players were permitted a "cooling off” period, and in that time DCE changed his mind.

He stayed with Manly, the club with which he debuted in 2011, and signed an eight-year contract that will earn him in excess of $10 million. It is the longest contract signed by any player in the history of the game.

And now, as the icing on the cake, DCE has been appointed the new captain of the Sea Eagles - an honour thoroughly deserved.

No doubt there are still critics of Cherry-Evans for his about-face on the Titans deal. And, if it was under different circumstances, that censure could be understood.

But DCE, and the Titans, were victims of an absurd rule. Giving grown men - and professional athletes - a cooling-off period of 13 weeks is akin to offering a kid an ice-cream, then telling him after he'd eaten it that it was free if he didn't like the taste.

There is a train of thought that Cherry-Evans merely used the Titans as a means of forcing Manly to up the ante, and maybe he did. But while rugby league diehards may not believe that is kosher, these days the NRL is as much about business as it is about sport and entertainment.

In fact, even Cherry-Evans conceded at the time that what he did "probably did not appear honourable”. But he was happy with his decision - after all, it was about his future, about his security and about his family.

Cherry-Evans now gets to earn his money the hard way. With Jamie Lyon no longer at Brookvale and the futures of Brett Stewart and Steve Matai still up in the air, the Sea Eagles face a tough road ahead with a mediocre roster.

They are 10th on the line of betting - at $17 - to win the comp after finishing 13th in 2016. And while the Sea Eagles have made some interesting signings, in essence there appears no newcomer who will automatically reverse their fortunes.

So the ball is firmly in the court of the new skipper. DCE has been presented with the opportunity to lead from the front and prove to Sea Eagles fans that the previous angst towards him from some senior players no longer exists.

In his favour is a vote of confidence from one of the greatest modern-day skippers, Cameron Smith. Admittedly it was two years ago, but Smith has nominated Cherry-Evans as his successor as Maroons captain.

But it will be the Sea Eagles results, not the endorsement of the current Australia skipper, which will determine how DCE is regarded as a captain.

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