NEW WAVE FOR
A new era has begun for Queensland, with the Maroons unveiling new faces, a new captain and new combinations with the team named to take on the Blues in State of Origin I at Suncorp Stadium on June 5.
Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans has been crowed as Queensland’s 15th Origin captain, topping off a triumphant redemption story after he clawed his way back into the Queensland team through sheer determination.
DCE steps into the team leadership role vacated by the retired Greg Inglis (Origin I & II) and Billy Slater (Origin III), who shared the captaincy during last year’s series.
Cherry-Evans said he was ready for the responsibility of leading the Maroons into battle.
“I love what comes with captaincy, I enjoy the proud moments of leading your team onto a ground,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I also took a lot of confidence from being in past Queensland and Australian camps. I’ve had the luxury to learn from senior players like Cam Smith, Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
“NSW are probably more settled than we are, but … it’s always good when Queensland gets the underdog tag. We have plans to spoil their party.”
Coach Kevin Walters unveiled a new-look Maroons team that Queensland fans will applaud as an intoxicating mix of brilliance, brute strength and brutality, with exciting debutants scattered among a cast of experienced players who know how to get the job done.
Wests Tigers captain Moses Mbye, and Brisbane forwards Joe Ofanhengaue and David Fifita become the latest members of the FOGS family, with the trio to make their Maroons debuts from the interchange bench as Maroons No.198, No.199 and No.200.
Fifita is just 19-years of age, and has less than a full season of NRL under his belt, but his speed, size and aggression makes him tailor-made to be an Origin impact weapon off the bench for Queensland.
Fifita’s debut also gives him a unique slice of Origin history – being the 200th Queensland Origin player since Arthur Beetson became Maroon No.1 back in 1980.
Brilliant Newcastle Knights sensation Kalyn Ponga as expected inherits Billy Slater’s No.1 jersey, the ever-impressive Cameron Munster returns at five-eighth, while Ben Hunt completes an attacking spine by being named at hooker.
In-form Titans workhorse Jai Arrow has been named at prop with Raiders behemoth Josh Papalii, Matt Gillett returns in the backrow alongside Felise Kaufusi, while Michael Morgan’s incredible versatility has seen him named at centre as part of a backline including Corey Oates, Will Chambers and Dane Gagai.
Walters reflected Queensland’s new approach, lighting the fuse for the new era by emotionally declaring the Maroons were ready to go to war to bring the shield home to Queensland this year.
“I’m ready, we are ready — this is war,” Walters said.
“This Queensland team is going to be so well prepared for this match.
“We are playing at home and we are going to put on a performance everyone will be proud of, including the players, fans and sponsors.
“We will win game one … it’s on.”
Walters said the injection of new faces would bring a new level of enthusiasm and a different team dynamic to the Maroons.
“It’s very exciting, all these boys have earned their selection in the side,” Walters said.
“David Fifita, we know how he has been the standout for the Broncos, the intensity and aggression he plays with is something that has stood out.
“Moses Mbye is another guy who is captain of the Tigers and plays a number of positions for us, that is vital at Origin level.
“Joe Ofahengaue our other player who is new to the Queensland side, he was knocking on the door and we just couldn’t leave him out of the side.”
QLD MAROONS: Kalyn Ponga, Corey Oates, Will Chambers, Michael Morgan, Dane Gagai, Cameron Munster, Daly Cherry-Evans (c), Jai Arrow, Ben Hunt, Josh Papalii, Felise Kaufusi, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire. Bench: Moses Mbye, Dylan Napa, Joe Ofahengaue, David Fifita, Tim Glasby (18th man).