DALY Cherry-Evans says he is in the best shape of his career as the Queensland skipper sets his sights on plotting a revenge mission on the Blues in this year’s State of Origin series.
Cherry-Evans may be turning 32 next February, but the Queensland halfback insists he is not on the wane and has vowed to help coach Kevin Walters through a delicate rebuilding phase for the Maroons.
The halfback position is one of the least contentious spots in the Queensland set-up with Cherry-Evans considered miles ahead of his No.7 contenders headlined by Ben Hunt, Michael Morgan, Ash Taylor and Corey Norman.
The former Redcliffe schemer admits he is reaching a stage in his career where the whispers start to become louder. Is he getting on? Does he have the passion to compete at the highest level?
Can his body withstand the weekly punishment from younger, fitter NRL monsters who seem to get bigger every year?
But after celebrating one of the high-points of his 10-year NRL career last season by making his debut as Queensland captain, the Sea Eagles halfback is not ready to hit the eject button anytime soon.
After 219 first-grade games for Manly, including a premiership win in 2011, Cherry-Evans remains in great shape and will use the 2020 season to build momentum for Queensland’s quest to dethrone NSW during the end-of-year Origin series in November.
“I do feel I am just as fast and fit and as strong as I have been,” Cherry-Evans said.
“I don’t feel I am losing anything physically at the moment. But every year I play is another year I’ve had to experience the NRL and what comes of it.
“It (talk of retirement) becomes topical in your 30s. Look, I haven’t set a finishing date. I don’t know how long I will play, but I just know I don’t feel retirement is any time soon.
“The funny thing is there is often a time where a player loses a yard of pace and that sort of stuff. I don’t feel that has happened to me just yet, but time will tell when I’m coming up against younger, faster players in the NRL.
“As long as I love the game and I’m up to it physically, I will keep playing on. I don’t care what that looks like contract-wise, but the longer I can play for Manly and Queensland, and hopefully Australia, I’ll be a happy man.”
Cherry-Evans has some Origin demons to exorcise from last year’s heartbreaking series defeat.
With scores locked at 20-all in the decider, Cherry-Evans was in position to snap the winning field goal, but a slow play-the-ball gave NSW defenders time to rush him.
Within minutes, Blues fullback James Tedesco streaked away to score and break Queensland’s hearts.
While Cherry-Evans is Queensland’s halfback incumbent, he refuses to be complacent, revealing he wants to play so well this year that he shuts the selection door on rival threats.
“Nothing is handed to you in Origin, you have to earn everything that you get,” he said.
“Just because I was halfback and captain last year, doesn’t mean I am guaranteed that this year.
“I believe I will be there this year based on the type of football I want to play. If all goes well and all goes to plan, I want to be playing at a level that gets me the job.
“That’s the way I like to attack things and approach things, but it won’t be because of anything I have done before. It’s what I must continue to show.
“That’s a personal mindset I have. You always work hard for what you get. You don’t get anything for free in this game.”