DCE gets chance to create history
IT'S the ultimate State of Origin redemption story.
Daly Cherry-Evans will tonight take the field as Queensland's 15th captain, following in the footsteps of all-time greats Cameron Smith, Darren Lockyer, Wally Lewis and Arthur Beetson by leading his Maroons teammates into battle at Suncorp Stadium.
It will complete a stunning reversal of fortune for the man who was axed from Queensland's 2015 game-three winning side by then coach Mal Meninga and sent into the Origin wilderness for the next three years.
Though he looked destined to never wear the Queensland jersey again - spluttering form with Manly throughout 2016 not helping his cause - Cherry-Evans' growing maturity and good form, coupled with injuries to the Maroons, suddenly opened the door for the Sea Eagles skipper to play in Origin III last year.
He made the most of his opportunity, producing a stellar performance in Billy Slater's send-off win.
Greg Inglis's shock retirement this season has again provided DCE with a chance to shine.
The Maroons' new leader, the boy who grew up in Redcliffe and Mackay, knows what a special - and important - moment he's reached.
At 30 years of age he's no longer prone to wasting chances.
"It's a massive honour, and I don't just throw that off as a cliche," Cherry-Evans said.
"It really is such a big honour to captain this great state. It's going to be a very special moment for me and my family when I get to lead this side out.
"There's a lot of hard work to be done but I'm extremely confident in what this side is capable of achieving, for not just one game, but for a full series. It's very exciting."
Adding to the significant personal achievement is the chance for Cherry-Evans to lead the highly-anticipated "new age" of Maroons football, something that has excited him from the beginning of this year's preparations.
At the same time, in what will be his ninth Origin appearance, the halfback is keen to utilise the experienced crop of leaders donning the Maroons jersey alongside him - including scrumbase partner Cameron Munster, Will Chambers, Michael Morgan and Matt Gillett.
"I was once the young guy coming into a star-studded side and now we've got these young kids that are the star-studded players filling the shoes of former greats," Cherry-Evans said.
"It's exciting, it is a new era, but we will certainly lean on what's been done before in the Queensland jersey.
"We're extremely proud to be Queenslanders, we're extremely proud of the performances that our old Queensland teammates have done, so we'll draw from that inspiration and do everyone proud - that's certainly the plan."
Come tonight, Cherry-Evans will get his best chance yet to write his own piece of Queensland rugby league history, and he'll have all the help he needs.
"We really have shared the load, and I think that's the really exciting part - there's people who really want to be involved in this," he said.
"We're not short of natural leaders in this side, it's important that we all continue to share the workload, communicating with the team and setting standards.
"We have players in this Queensland side who have a lot of Origin experience - it would be silly of me not to lean on that.
"We've got Will Chambers, Michael Morgan, Matt Gillett. We've got some players who have been in Origin for a long time too, like Dane Gagai and Josh Papalii.
"We're drawing from everyone's experience.
"There's not necessarily as much experience as there once was but that's why it's exciting for Queensland to get the opportunity to continue the legacy that's QRL, and we're really committed to doing that.
"That's certainly what we're doing. We're coming together, we're using everyone's experience for the betterment of the group."