Daly Cherry-Evans is not everyone's cup of tea. When it was confirmed last week that Glenn Stewart was being squeezed out of Manly under salary cap pressure, he was painted by some as the villain in the piece, and a cold-hearted one at that.
The halfback's dispassionate response when asked about Stewart's impending exit - "I won’t say anything more about Glenn’s situation" - only further fuelled suggestions of a division at the Sea Eagles over the departure of a favourite son and loyal servant.
However, after a 54-18 hammering of Canberra at Brookvale Oval - a third straight victory that keeps them equal top of the NRL premiership - the atmosphere at Manly appears anything but tense.
The hardy 8817 who rocked up on a wet afternoon on the northern beaches instead left feeling all warm and fuzzy after being treated to a Cherry-Evans masterclass.
He wasn't named as the Australian No.7 late on Sunday - that honour went to the incumbent Cooper Cronk - but if the selection for Friday's Test against New Zealand was based purely on form, he surely would not have had to settle for a spot on the Kangaroos bench.
If Cherry-Evans can be criticised for speaking unemotionally with a camera in his face, then he must too be lauded for being so devastatingly clinical with a ball in his hand. Geoff Toovey's team was without Cherry-Evans' halves partner Kieran Foran - debutant Jack Littejohn deputised in his place and did well. But it mattered not as their little general, back from a rest with leg soreness, took Canberra apart.
It wasn't exaggerating to say it was the finest individual performance by any player in a game this season and it served to further justify the tough decisions being made at Manly head office, however heart-wrenching. Sentimentality has its place in the NRL but not when it comes to the salary cap.
It is the club's desire to retain their halfback and make other plans for the future - including re-signing outside back Peta Hiku - that essentially left them with nothing to spend on a new deal for Stewart.
Sunday's exhibition emphasised just why Manly will move mountains to keep Cherry-Evans. Hiku crossed for four tries, three of them set up by the halfback. Cherry-Evans had a direct hand in seven of the nine Manly four-pointers; the kind of production to make a fantasy NRL team manager weep.
"It just is one of them days," was how Manly's magician explained it all. "This club faces adversity better than anyone, and I think we showed that today, how well we come together when the chips are down and everybody is writing us off. I think we did a really good job of that, of focusing on the job at hand and playing some really good footy, which is what we do best."
Most of the damage was done by half-time. Down 42-4 at the break, Alex Leapai, the Australian heavyweight pummelled in his world title challenge at the weekend, might have been able to relate to the Raiders' sorry predicament.
But at least the brave Queenslander lasted until the fifth round before being floored one time too many by the towering Wladimir Klitschko. Dumbstruck Canberra were all but knocked out inside the first 10 minutes but the three tries they conceded in that period were, it turned out, just a taste of what was to come.
As the Raiders were opened up history beckoned. The great Andrew Johns had inspired Newcastle to the largest first-half annihilation ever dished out when the Knights led 48-0 over the Cowboys in 2003.
A repeat of that gaping margin didn't quite eventuate but Cherry-Evans fittingly channelled the eighth Immortal with a performance the great Johns himself would have been proud of.
It was easy to miss amid the torrent of tries but there was also recognition for Stewart, with applause for the South Sydney-bound lock in the 13th minute to match his number.
"I didn't notice that, Obviously we were out there playing footy," Cherry-Evans said. "But that's a wonderful tribute to him."