QUEENSLAND skipper Daly Cherry-Evans says his ability to strike a strong relationship with new coach Paul Green will be crucial to the Maroons’ hopes of retaining the State of Origin shield this season.
Despite having played in the NRL for 10 years and amassed 246 first-grade games in that time, Cherry-Evans has remarkably never crossed paths with Green, who will make his debut as Queensland coach in Origin I on June 9 in Melbourne.
While Green coached at the Cowboys in Townsville for the past seven years, Cherry-Evans has been 2000km away, plying his trade for Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches.
But the tyranny of distance is over for this year’s Origin series, with Green’s appointment as Queensland coach to put him in touch with Cherry-Evans as the pair look to plot a second consecutive series defeat of the Blues.
After the joy of captaining Queensland to Origin glory last season under former Maroons coach Wayne Bennett, Cherry-Evans is certain to be retained as skipper by Green and says building a rapport with his new mentor is critical.
“I don’t know Paul Green well,” he said.
“He has obviously coached against me, and I’ve played against sides that he has coached.
“I am looking forward to meeting Paul for this series.
“I don’t know much about him as a person, but he has had success as an NRL coach so I’m sure he is really excited to get hold of this Queensland side and have some success as well.
“I admired what ‘Greeny’ achieved at the Cowboys winning the premiership there (in 2015), so hopefully we can combine together to win an Origin series.
“It’s important we are on the same page quickly, and I’m sure we will be.
“I would love to partner up with Greeny and be able to achieve something special for Queensland.”
The Maroons have suffered a scare in the lead up to Game One with a number of key Maroons missing matches due to injury.
However, the setback hasn’t caused too much alarm for the new Queensland coach, who admitted his plans remained flexible to cope with the type of adversity Bennett confronted last year, when he blooded 14 debutants to overcome an injury crisis.
Despite losing a raft of players to injury, Bennett engineered a stunning 2-1 series boilover and Green is confident he can do the same.
“You don’t want to be too fixed,” Green said when asked if he had settled on his starting 17 for Origin I.
“We’ve still got a little bit of footy to be played.
“You don’t want to be too set because things can change pretty quickly.
“I’m reasonably happy with where we’re at.
“Hopefully those guys can recover, which I’m sure they will.”
Queensland is bracing for some tough competition this year with the likes of James Tedesco, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Tom Trbojevic in the frame for Blues selection.
However, Green said the experience of last year’s heroics would put the Maroons in good stead.
“The fact that so many guys did debut last year probably means there will be less guys to debut this year,” he said.
“That’s the benefit of last year – those guys got some experience and a taste of what Origin is all about.”
Cherry-Evans said Queensland would not suffer a hangover from last year’s Origin heroics.
“Last year, while it was an awesome experience, it all starts again this season,” he said.
“Our friendships and relationship will definitely roll over and we have to build on those connections we made last year.
“But in terms of results, it doesn’t roll over. We have to put in the hard work all over again.
“We need to have the self-belief that we can do it all over again, and I’ll be working with Greeny to make sure the guys are well prepared for another torrid Origin series.”