MAROONS skipper Daly Cherry-Evans says the captaincy has taken him to another level as a player, and has only steeled his desire to help Queensland reclaim the Origin shield next season.
Cherry-Evans was so composed and controlled in Manly’s 28-16 defeat of Cronulla in the opening week of the finals that NRL Immortal Andrew Johns praised the Queensland halfback’s leadership in pressure situations.
The shock retirement of Greg Inglis earlier this season opened the door for Cherry-Evans to be anointed as Queensland’s 15th Origin captain and the Manly playmaker says he learned invaluable lessons from his first season in charge of the Maroons.
“When you get the opportunity to play Origin, it makes you a better player and when you get the opportunity to captain your state, it definitely takes you to another level,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I feel as though I have had so much experience in different areas during the last three years in particular.
“A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to captain Manly when we made the finals in 2017 and I learnt a hell of a lot out of that. I have learnt even more by captaining Queensland.
“The opportunity I had to lead the Queensland team out this year was something I will never forget.
“But the key for me in terms of development was the experiences I had behind the scenes.
“I got to have so many more conversations with my teammates and senior players in the side.
“Queensland have a lot of quality guys like Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Ben Hunt and Matt Gillett, and I picked their brains on how they go about their rugby league and that’s where I got the most out of Origin captaincy.
“Those key conversations with other elite players opened my eyes to the game a bit more and how I can improve as a player.”
A place in Cherry-Evans’ heart is still hurting from Queensland’s gut-wrenching last-minute loss in this year’s decider.
The Maroons slumped to a second consecutive series defeat when NSW fullback James Tedesco scoring in the dying seconds of Origin III to clinch an epic 26-20 victory at ANZ Stadium.
The Blues now have their sights set on a ruthless domination of State of Origin but Cherry-Evans is determined to hit back next year and stem the tide.
“That game (the Origin decider) was very emotional,” he said. “I love my job too much to call anything a ‘low point’.
“I guess I have too much appreciation for how lucky I was to have played in a State of Origin series and lead Queensland out, but it’s certainly motivation to come back next year and lift that shield.”
Queensland coach Kevin Walters will return for a fifth campaign in 2020 and Cherry-Evans is relishing the prospect of plotting NSW’s downfall with the Maroons mentor.
“On a personal level, I’ve worked well with Kevvie as captain and coach,” he said.
“His passion is unrivalled when it comes to Queensland rugby league. He absolutely bleeds it.
“You can tell from the way he comes across in his press conferences. He is very emotional and he gets just as animated behind closed doors.
“He’s not always that way. There are times as a coach when you have to be cool, calm and collected and Kevvie does that, but you can’t question how much Queensland and Origin means to him.
“I know he will be burning over the last two series more than anyone and I feel the same way.”