Back in 2015, Cherry-Evans had agreed to join the Titans, only to perform a sensational backflip to stay with Manly on a $10 million lifetime deal. It was widely perceived that his bumper new pay packet forced club favourite Glenn Stewart out of the club.
Cherry-Evans had few friends in the game — or the media. So he thought it was time to change the narrative when it came to what people thought of him.
«I was sick of people assuming they knew who I was,» Cherry-Evans tells The Sun-Herald. «That’s been a large portion of my fault because I hadn’t let people in. If you don’t let people in, they will guess, and people were guessing wrong in my opinion.
«I thought the only way it will change is if I opened up myself to being more approachable to the media, to the fans and to opposition players. I’ve made a conscious effort to make people comfortable around me.
«I’m a private person, and I don’t like people prying into my private life. But by giving fans and the media an opportunity to see who I am in with a bit more personable detail, I’ve certainly opened that up.
«A big turning point for me was Gladstone. That’s when I noticed the public’s perception of me started to sway to a more positive light.
«People were still in my corner after Gladstone. Had that event happened three or four years earlier, it could have been the end of me based on my [reputation]. But I feel I’ve started to build a rapport with the fans and the game and on the back of that they trust you more.
«I just think when people see you in a different light, they are then more open to talking about you more positively.
«That goes for any player in the NRL. If someone doesn’t like you, they will turn a blind eye to the footy you’re playing. That naturally happens a lot in our game.
«As you open yourself up to being more approachable and open minded about talking about who you are and what you enjoy away from football, that certainly gives people a different opinion of me as a person, and off the back of that the comments start to flow about your footy.»
Tom and Jake Trbojevic have always been huge supporters of their captain. If the three of them stay fit for the bulk of the year, Manly are some chance of making the finals.
Tom Trbojevic told The Sun-Herald the Titans snub made Cherry-Evans a target for so many people in the game and for so many years.
«The Gold Coast never sat well with the media, and he got a bad name for it,» Trbojevic said. «It was upsetting for him. But he’s embraced the media more, doing that extra bit for fans now, and he’s been able to rebuild his image. He’s a really good person, a very good player who does so much for the game.»
Trbojevic recalled the day a Cherry-Evans prank left the brothers fearing for their future at the club.
«We had stolen his shoes one day, we knew the bloke who mowed his lawn and got him to give the shoes back,» Tom said.
«‘Chez’ found out it was us. Jake and I went up to Dubbo for a promotion a few years back and hung around to have a few beers later that night.
«We didn’t know it at the time, but ‘Chez’ got this bloke to fire off an email to our [former] footy manager, Gareth Holmes, telling him how we had our shirts off in this club and how we were carrying on.
«We hadn’t done any of it, but Gareth said we would have to front the NRL integrity unit. I was 20 at the time and pretty rattled. And you know Jake, he was off his head going, ‘What’s going on here?’.
«A couple of days later there was a team meeting, Daly told everyone what was happening. But then he told us it was just a joke. He got us good. It was a good laugh.»
Cherry-Evans, now 30, has quietly gone from strength to strength on the field, despite Manly missing three of the last four finals series.
Returning coach Des Hasler will use Cherry-Evans predominantly on the right edge this season, rather than let him roam.
Keeping him to the right side of the field worked in 2011 when they won the premiership together. It is also how he has been used along side Cameron Munster and Luke Keary respectively in the Queensland and Australian set-ups.
Winning back those rep jumpers last year after a lengthy exile is something Cherry-Evans wants to maintain.
Such is the respect for Cherry-Evans when it comes to Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, he was elevated to the vice-captaincy late last season behind Boyd Cordner for the two Tests against New Zealand and Tonga.
Meninga also handed Cherry-Evans his first Queensland jersey in 2013, only for rumours to emerge not long after Johnathan Thurston and every other Maroons star and supporter and official and publican could not cop the Manly upstart.
«But I’ve always found him really easy to work with,» Meninga said. «I never saw anything with the Queensland team. I’ve said it s many times in the past, but the only reason Daly [eventually] missed out on Queensland was because I had to make a call on the No. 14 jersey between him and Michael Morgan. It had nothing to do with personality.
«It wasn’t broadcast he was made vice-captain of the Kangaroos. His contribution was excellent last year. He worked hard on his leadership in the team. He was very willing and capable of doing it.»
Few give Manly a hope of playing finals footy this year.
Sea Eagles’ fans will always show them love. The same love Cherry-Evans is now enjoying.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.