Daly Cherry-Evans has clarity about what he wants to achieve in life and how to do it and credits his mentor Joe Wehbe for providing a clear path to success.
Wehbe has mentored many an NRL star, including NSW fullback James Tedesco, but in the case of the 29-year-old Manly captain his influence has been compelling.
From a footballer who mistrusted the media and was reluctant to reveal his true self to the fans, Cherry-Evans has shown himself of late to be both engaging and thoughtful.
As he prepares to run out for Queensland in game three of the Holden State of Origin series as the starting halfback, Cherry-Evans provided NRL.com with an insight into what he had learned from Wehbe and a glimpse into his innermost self.
“Joe is not a qualified psychologist. I’d call him a mentor who was introduced to me by a mutual friend, Blake Green, and from there our relationship just grew,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I believe in the way he goes about his life and his business. The best way I can explain it is that Joe makes it really clear about how I can achieve my goals.
“He has given me clarity around a lot of things… whether that be the way I look at what the media say about me, the way I am going about my football or things at home.
“That is the best thing about my relationship with Joe. It is not just a surface level relationship about rugby league.”
Cherry-Evans said Wehbe’s influence had resulted in him becoming a better footballer and a better man.
“There is nothing better in life than being nice and clear about what you want to achieve and Joe has helped me get that clarity around what I am trying to achieve in footy and to be a good person,” he said.
“There is a lot of that outside noise in rugby league, and there were quite a few years where I was quite resentful about the external noise and media scrutiny.
“I certainly have a different approach towards it now and I understand why people are writing things the way they are.
“I was really resentful towards the media because I felt I was unfairly treated.
“The reason I gathered that people were writing about me what they were was because they didn’t know who I was, and they were guessing.
“For that to change I needed to show people who I am and the person I really am on a daily basis because I believe in what I am doing, I believe I am a good parent and I believe I am a good footy player… and people can’t just guess that.
“I guess I can use the cliché of how men like to keep their feelings bottled up and I certainly abided by that for a long time, but I am starting to learn that people want to learn about who we are as sports people and the more insightful I can be about what I am trying to achieve as a footy player the more they can understand what I do.”
After the infamous “backflip” on the Gold Coast Titans he was booed by sections of the crowd when he played at Suncorp Stadium for Manly.
Cherry-Evans had agreed to join the Titans, had bought a house on the Gold Coast and intended to make the move. Manly then came back and offered him a $10 million deal over eight years.
It was an offer, to quote Marlon Brando in ‘The Godfather’, that was too good to refuse. Many fans, however, refused to accept it. Cherry-Evans made the point that it was Manly who came back with the mega-offer and that he did not use the Titans as a bargaining chip.
“The best way I can explain that situation is that I hope that one day – maybe not now and maybe not in five years – people can understand my side of the situation, and if they were in the same situation I’d like to think there would be a large majority of people doing what I did,” Cherry Evans said.
“It set my family up for a very long time. I am a father of three and my priorities have changed from me, me, me to how I can help my kids have the best childhood they can possibly have.
“If people can see it for what it really is, I was coming. I had bought a house on the Gold Coast, and I was talking to my mum and dad about possibly moving to the Gold Coast to be closer to me and my kids.
“The circumstances changed dramatically, and those circumstances favoured me and my family so much.”
This past week there are those who profess to be Queensland fans who have bagged Cherry-Evans mercilessly on certain social media sites.
That negativity has been unleashed in the darkness of the keyboard warrior world but when the new Maroons half visited Hervey Bay in regional Queensland in the light of day for a fan day last week he was treated like a rock star.
“I was very surprised at the support that I received personally at Hervey Bay,” he said.
“I was really taken aback, because what’s been written about me for so long I was led to believe there wasn’t much support for me, but that trip to Hervey Bay certainly changed my perspective about how much love and support there is for me as a player.”
Cherry-Evans is banking on a better reception at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night than he received several years ago.
“Back then I was playing for Manly so I took it with a grain of salt,” he said.
“It was at a time where I had upset a lot of people around the Gold Coast area and I am not naïve as to what they were feeling and why, but I certainly feel as though a lot has changed since then at my end and where my footy is at.
“I’ve got an opportunity to play for Queensland again and I am excited about how much the fans are going to get behind us so we can show them what we are really capable of.
DCE would love nothing more than to be able to prove once and for all that he has the smarts to be a success at Origin level long term, but it is one game at a time right now.
“It would be naïve of me to think about how long I can be here,” Cherry-Evans said.
“Everything I have been working for is about Wednesday night.
“After that I will re-assess but right now I need to make sure I am throwing all my eggs into one basket, and that is on Wednesday.”