QUEENSLAND skipper Daly Cherry-Evans is sweating on the future of State of Origin this season as the Maroons plot revenge following back-to-back series losses to the Blues.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only thrown the NRL’s club season into disarray, it has cast a grey cloud over State of Origin, rugby league’s showpiece which turns over an estimated $90 million annually for the code.
The NRL’s Project Apollo program, led by committee chairman Wayne Pearce, has announced plans for a three-game Origin series sometime this year.
But there is a possibility Queensland could face an Origin blackout, with the state’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk admitting there is no certainty the Sunshine State borders will be open for NSW players to be allowed entry to play games at Suncorp Stadium.
As a proud Queenslander, Cherry-Evans has felt the pain of NSW’s consecutive title wins, including last year’s 2019 Origin campaign in which the joy of making his debut as Maroons captain was tempered by a 2-1 series loss.
Just turned 31, Cherry-Evans is entering his twilight years and is hoping the code can overcome the COVID-19 crisis to help the Maroons snap NSW’s recent dominance of State of Origin.
“It would be pretty shattering if Origin wasn’t to go ahead,” he said.
“It feels alright for NSW, because they are holding the trophy at the moment. But as a Queenslander, we want that trophy back.
“That’s why I hope we find a timeslot for the Origin series this year to try and reclaim that trophy.”
Cherry-Evans’ scrumbase partner Cameron Munster admits he is struggling to fill the void without NRL football.
The classy pivot is currently in Rockhampton visiting his family and is hellbent on having another crack at the Blues this season.
“It would be devastating if Origin wasn’t played this year,” Munster said. “I just want to play footy and get some stability back in my life.
“For me not to be playing at the moment is tough because like so many players football has been all I know.
“I really hope we can get Origin going again because it’s the showpiece of our game.”
Should the Queensland borders remain closed, there is every chance the NRL will consider playing all three Origin games in Sydney.
Venues such as ANZ Stadium, the Sydney Cricket Ground and Parramatta’s Bankwest Stadium have been touted as possible options.
It would be a shame if Suncorp Stadium wasn’t able to host a game this year, given that the 2020 series represents the 40th anniversary of Artie Beetson famously leading the Maroons onto Lang Park in Origin’s debut in 1980.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters said the Maroons will do whatever it takes to get Origin up and running this season.
“There’s been a few scenarios the NRL are throwing around,” he said.
“Playing it at the end of the year could be an option. I’m confident State of Origin will happen this year, but we have to make sure the health of safety of everyone is first and foremost.
“If we can do it and everything is cleared, the key is to get Origin on TV, get people talking about it and rugby league.
“If we had to play three Origin games in Sydney to keep the series alive, then we’ll support that.
“We love Origin that much we’d play on the moon if we had to.”