QUEENSLAND coach Kevin Walters says the reemergence of Daly Cherry-Evans as a representative weapon will give the Maroons the cornerstone of experience to build a young team around over the next couple of years.
Queensland’s transition out of the recent golden era with the departures of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston has been predictably bumpy, but DCE’s coming of age as an experienced playmaker has made him invaluable to the Maroons.
After several years on the fringes as he waited for his chance behind Thurston and Cronk, the Manly skipper re-established himself with a dominant performance for Queensland in Game 3 of the 2018 series, going on to reclaim his Test jersey as well.
While Queensland are fortunate to have so many exciting youngsters pushing through the system, Walters says it is the extra experience of the likes of DCE and skipper Greg Inglis that the Maroons will need the most.
Walters said he was delighted personally for Cherry-Evans that his terrific performance in Origin III finally silenced the doubters and conspiracy theorists.
“It was particularly pleasing with Daly coming back into the team, because there has always been so much white noise around him when it comes to Origin football,” Walters said.
“It doesn’t matter how many times we tell people that there was never a problem with Daly, some people just choose not to believe it.
“After biding his time and waiting for his opportunity, this year it finally came and he did a terrific job for Queensland, and Australia for that matter.
“I had a lot of confidence picking Daly for the third game of the series. After the first team meeting, I sat down with him and had a quick chat about the game and what we expected from him and what he could bring to the team.
“I left that meeting feeling very confident about what DCE was going to bring us for Game 3, and he lived up to that completely.
“His preparation and his leadership were outstanding the whole week.
“The best thing for him now is that hopefully all of that nonsense about him not being welcome in the Queensland system has been put to bed once and for all.”
Despite having only one Origin appearance to his credit, the excitement around Kalyn Ponga continues to build after his sparkling debut for the Maroons this year.
With Slater now gone, and Valentine Holmes departing for the NFL, the Queensland No.1 jersey is there for the taking.
Walters said Ponga and the rest of the new faces introduced to the side over recent seasons – and returning stalwarts like Matt Gillett – had Queensland’s depth in good shape.
“It wasn’t just Kalyn who did well for us this year, but guys like Cameron Munster. It seems like he has been around forever but he has only played four Origin games,” Walters said.
“Michael Morgan missed most of the series with injury, but he is going to be a long-term Maroons leader. He will be back, and so will Matt Gillett.
“Jai Arrow is another one we believe has a big future. Felisa Kaufusi stepped up into Gillo’s role this year and did an exceptional job for us.”
Leading from the front again will be new skipper Inglis, who had a bittersweet series with the Maroons.
He was exceptional for Queensland in his first two games as captain, but both games were lost. He missed the victorious third game through injury.
Walters said Inglis will be desperate to rectify the ledger in 2019.
“Greg’s performances in the first two games of the series were inspirational,” he said. “He got in there and led from the front – that is how he does things.
“You could tell straight away from the day we got into camp that he was ready to do whatever it took to get this Queensland team over the line.
“I have no doubt that he will do that again next year, and his first aim will be to win his first series as Queensland captain.”