When asked if he felt bad for turning on Cherry-Evans, Barrett said: “No.”
“I think it’s a good effort from ‘Cherry’ just to make the field with what he’s been through last year and the year before that,” Barrett said.
“He’s been playing really consistent footy and playing really well. He’s started of this year really well.
“But we can stop him. There are a lot of threats outside of Cherry. Kalyn Ponga is frightening. Munster can win games on his own as well.
“Chez is obviously very important to them. He’s their halfback. But I’m sure our boys will do a good job.”
Barrett was the man who took the punt and elevated Cherry-Evans to skipper when Jamie Lyon retired, and he stuck by him during the ugly Gladstone incident last season involving Jackson Hastings.
Cherry-Evans has always made a point of sticking up for Barrett, who eventually had a bitter falling out with the Seas Eagles. Barrett was replaced by Des Hasler but continues to be paid – to do nothing – until July.
NSW Rugby League officials stressed that Barrett, who was decked out in Blues attire at their training base on Thursday, was not on the payroll and simply visiting good mate Fittler. Any paid work would have been seen as a breach of his Manly deal.
Barrett knows better than anyone how much Cherry-Evans was hurt by his ostracism from the Maroons, and how the fans north of the border were unimpressed when he backflipped on the Gold Coast.
He’s learned a lot about himself: leadership, how to treat other people in his team and club.
Trent Barrett on Daly Cherry-Evans
“But in game three he won a few of them over with how well he played,” Barrett said of his return last year.
“I think he did have doubts he’d ever get back in there. He was never one to come out and say too much about it.
“I think deep down it hurt him a bit. I think through his efforts at Manly and his leadership and how he’s come on there, he’s been rewarded for it. There will be no prouder man than Cherry.
“He leads by example. He’s learned a lot. He’s learned a lot about himself: leadership, how to treat other people in his team and club. I think he’s learned how to make people around him comfortable off the field as well.
“It’s a huge part of being a good leader and something he’s worked hard on.
“When we first chose him as Manly captain I think it raised a few eyebrows. But we did see something in him, and if he could get some support around him he could be the person he is today.”
Barrett said being back around some of the game’s best players and best minds like Fittler and Andrew Johns, Craig Fitzgibbon and Danny Buderus reminded him how much he loved and missed coaching.
“I have missed the daily interaction that comes with coaching. There’s two more months to go,” Barrett said.
“I’ll see what happens. It’s been a difficult one and there are things I can’t talk about. But I’m extremely keen to get back into it. You miss it, but it’s also terrific to spend time with the kids. Three years, and you don’t know how much it consumes you until you pull yourself out of it.”
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.