First-year Manly players Cheyse Blair and Josh Starling have been surprised by their teammates' mental strength as the Sea Eagles continue their march towards a minor premiership despite off-field turmoil threatening to derail their season.
Manly again managed to prove that, no matter what is happening away from the field, their football won't suffer, when they travelled to New Zealand and beat the Warriors 22-12 last Sunday.
The victory meant Manly jumped four points clear on top of the premiership ladder as the contract uncertainty surrounding several key players lingered.
Blair is no stranger to off-field controversy after switching from a Parramatta side that was plagued by distractions away from the field in recent times. The outside back said woes away from the field can distract young players, however Manly's senior group had kept the side together.
"They are pretty big dramas but it's not fazing us," Blair said. "Because of how many seniors players are here. They've been playing together for 10 years. They all know each other so well on the footy field.
"They just get down and play football. That's why it's so easy for me to come into a team and play like I do because I play outside superstars.
"[Off-field turmoil] puts a bit of pressure on you. There is a coach that might like you that might get the sack. That's what happened to me at Parramatta with Mooks [then coach Stephen Kearney]. He gave me my first crack at first grade then he got sacked at the end of the year."
Blair has impressed in his limited opportunities this season, scoring four tries in his five outings. He said he was immediately impressed by the team's mental resolve when he joined them for preseason training in November.
"I noticed that as soon as I came to the club," Blair said. "The culture they set as senior players, they have a big say in what we do and how training goes. It's very easy to catch on to. If we get told to do something by them, us young blokes do it.
"Toovs [coach Geoff Toovey] hasn't changed. He is a hard man when it comes to training. He knows what every player can do. He hasn't blown up about it. I think he is sick of [the innuendo]."
Teammate Josh Starling, like Blair, is in his first season as a Sea Eagle after switching from South Sydney. The prop said the performance against the Warriors was impressive.
"Not too bad for a team struggling with each other," Starling half joked. "The way the [senior players] hold themselves, I don't even know anything that's going on. They never show it.
"No one talks about it. They deal with whatever they need to address. They've been through it all before so they know what they are doing."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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