Manly ace Tom Trbojevic has thrown his support behind embattled captain Daly Cherry-Evans and defended the team's culture and unity in the wake of more damaging headlines and a form slump.
Three days after Cherry-Evans was fined $10,000 following a physical altercation with teammate Jackson Hastings, the club imposed fines on four more players for breaking curfew.
The club declined to name the players involved, citing welfare issues but has slugged them with $1500 fines for their visit to a Gladstone strip club.
It means Cherry-Evans, as well as the banished Hastings, stand to be the only players called out publicly over the weekend in Gladstone when players are alleged to have visited a strip club after being told to go back to their hotel.
The saga has some critics questioning the leadership credentials of Cherry-Evans, the playmaker the Sea Eagles staked their future on with a multi-million dollar, long-term contract after he backflipped on a lucrative deal with Gold Coast.
"We love having (Cherry-Evans) as our leader and I love playing with him week in, week out," Trbojevic said on Tuesday.
"(It's been) a tough few weeks for him but we know we'll get the best of him for the rest of the year.
"When he's playing his best footy, we're a very good footy side."
Manly have lost three straight matches since their ill-fated road trip to Gladstone, culminating in a demoralising 44-10 defeat to previously winless Parramatta last weekend.
Trbojevic was one of several players denying on Tuesday there was a split in the playing group after reports some had messaged support to Hastings.
He also rejected suggestions that bullying in the form of practical jokes may have contributed to Hastings' exile from the first-grade squad.
"We're a very close footy team. There's certainly no divide," Trbojevic said.
"Everyone wants to have a laugh at footy training.
"It's not very serious, everyone plays a practical joke here and there but saying that's an issue, I think, is going way too far."
Veteran winger Akuila Uate made an emotional plea for the media to leave the Gladstone incident in the past.
"We get dragged down by you guys and to stay positive, you guys can actually help us," he told reporters.
"With this situation, I feel for whoever gets involved because we've got feelings as well and if you drag us down, of course we're not going to be the best player we could be.
"I feel for Chez (Cherry-Evans).
"He's got three beautiful girls to go to every afternoon, every day, and he comes in and rips in at training and he's done nothing wrong.
"He's given himself to pay the fine."