Manly Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai says departing stars Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran are not the reason for the side’s poor start to the season.
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With the Sea Eagles having won just one game in 2015, the halves have come under harsh criticism from fans after they both announced their departures from the club in 2016.
Cherry-Evans and Foran have not found their best form this season since agreeing to join the Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels respectively, but Matai says the duo are being unfairly singled out.
“They’re not the only two players in the team; there are 17 players on the field and they’re taking a lot of that blame but we all win together and we all lose together so it’s a bit harsh that they’re getting all the criticism,” Matai is quoted as saying by NRL.com.
“They’re playing as hard as they can, training as hard, preparing the same, so I guess it’s just the media trying to say stuff about them but it doesn’t change how we feel about the two boys.”
Matai says the club can still reach the finals, using its 2009 campaign as an example of the club’s ability to bounce back.
“Our form’s been down the last few weeks but we’re the only ones that can turn it around,” Matai said.
“In 2009 I think it was, after winning the premiership in ’08 I think we lost the first five rounds of the next year so I’ve been there before and I know what it takes to turn it around. We all just need to focus and have trust in each other.
“It’s still early in the year. We lost our first five games in ’09 and still finished fifth so we just need to get some momentum going forward in the next few weeks so hopefully we can do that and carry it on through the second half of the year.”
Manly currently sit last on the NRL ladder after six games and will be looking to get back to winning ways against the 10th-placed Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Sea Eagles go into the match on the back of a 22-12 loss to the Penrith Panthers, while the Bulldogs were smashed 31-6 by St George Illawarra.
The two sides meet on Friday at 10.35am (GMT).