Daly Cherry-Evans took the fall.
Daly Cherry-Evans took the fall.

Manly mayhem exposes unknown DCE act

PENRITH supremo Phil Gould has slammed Manly's handling of its off-field crisis, saying a lack of leadership is hurting the club while coach Trent Barrett is being hung out to dry.

Barrett fronted the media last week to explain Jackson Hastings had been dropped to reserve grade because his teammates didn't want to play alongside him. That theory then came under a cloud as stars, including Addin Fonua-Blake and Brad Parker, spoke publicly in support of the 22-year-old.

Daly Cherry-Evans was fined $10,000 for an altercation with Hastings in Gladstone and on Monday night it was revealed more players would be hit in the hip pocket for going to a strip club after their loss to the Titans in Round 5 when they had a curfew imposed on them.

Speaking after an embarrassing 44-10 loss to Parramatta on Sunday, Barrett said the latest off-field drama involving Hastings was "the straw that broke the camel's back".

Manly coach Trent Barrett at training.
Manly coach Trent Barrett at training.

Gould said Barrett has been let down by those at Manly head office, who should be fighting this fire instead and who should have fronted the press to explain what was going on.

Gould also said there's no way Barrett would have made a snap decision to banish Hastings from first grade, and was of the belief those higher up have to take responsibility.

"That's not his press conference to make, there has to be someone within the club that answers for everybody else," Gould said.

"I can't see the leadership in this club. I want to know why the coach is bearing the weight of all this.

"Where are the people responsible for this club coming out to answer on behalf of the club and clear the air on this?

"Coaches and clubs don't make decisions like they did with Jackson Hastings on a whim.

"As he (Barrett) said this was the end of a long road that he had been down and when he described the frustration in that time, when he has sought help from the club, where he has asked the club for assistance, where he has asked the club for help time after time after time, but the club is under-resourced, it's undermanned, it's lacking leadership and there just hasn't been the support there."

Jackson Hastings is in an uncomfortable position.
Jackson Hastings is in an uncomfortable position.

It was announced on Saturday Cherry-Evans had been fined $10,000 for a confrontation he had with Hastings at the team hotel after returning from the Gladstone strip club, but Gould - who is a close friend of Barrett's - revealed there was more to the story.

Gould spoke to Barrett on Sunday and Monday where the former NSW playmaker discussed the issues he was facing, and it came out Cherry-Evans had decided to fine himself as opposed to being punished by the club.

"The $10,000 fine to Cherry-Evans, Cherry-Evans put on himself," Gould said. "Cherry-Evans went to the coach and said, 'We've got to do something about this, we should be fined for what we've done, fine me $10,000'.

"He said, 'I'm the captain, blame me.'

"They took that to the management. It wasn't even the management that did that.

"He's made the decision because there's no leadership at the bloody club to take control of this."

Daly Cherry-Evans was powerless to arrest his side’s form slump.
Daly Cherry-Evans was powerless to arrest his side’s form slump.

Gould's comments come on the back of Raiders coach Ricky Stuart also suggesting Barrett had been betrayed.

"He wouldn't have said that about young Hastings, and I don't know young Hastings and I hope that everything goes well for him, but he wouldn't have said what he said unless players didn't make him aware of it and tell him and the players have turned around and obviously they've not supported him (Barrett)," Stuart said on Sunday.

Manly ace Tom Trbojevic threw his support behind Cherry-Evans on Tuesday and defended the team's culture and unity in the wake of damaging headlines and a form slump.

The saga has some critics questioning the leadership credentials of Cherry-Evans, the playmaker the Sea Eagles staked their future on with a multimillion-dollar, long-term contract after he backflipped on a lucrative deal with Gold Coast.

Tom Trbojevic has backed captain Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: Phil Hillyard
Tom Trbojevic has backed captain Daly Cherry-Evans. Photo: Phil Hillyard

"We love having (Cherry-Evans) as our leader and I love playing with him week in, week out," Trbojevic said.

"(It's been) a tough few weeks for him but we know we'll get the best of him for the rest of the year.

"When he's playing his best footy, we're a very good footy side."

Manly has lost three straight matches since its ill-fated road trip to Gladstone, culminating in the demoralising defeat to a previously winless Parramatta last weekend.

Trbojevic was one of several players denying on Tuesday there was a split in the playing group after reports some had messaged support to Hastings. He also rejected suggestions that bullying in the form of practical jokes may have contributed to Hastings' exile from the first grade squad.

"We're a very close footy team. There's certainly no divide," Trbojevic said. "Everyone wants to have a laugh at footy training.

"It's not very serious, everyone plays a practical joke here and there but saying that's an issue, I think, is going way too far."