Proof DCE resurrection is in full swing
THE State of Origin exile of Daly Cherry-Evans is well and truly over.
Three years after his last game for Queensland, Cherry-Evans has been tipped by Billy Slater to not only become the Maroons' long-term halfback but also their leader.
Cherry-Evans has launched a charm offensive at his first Maroons camp since 2015 after the maligned playmaker replaced Ben Hunt at halfback for Wednesday's Origin III in Brisbane.
There had been speculation Cherry-Evans fell out with the Maroons during his last stint, leading to years in Origin limbo.
A dust-up with Jackson Hastings at NRL club Manly and stinging criticism from ex-Sea Eagles teammate Anthony Watmough this year only added to rumours Cherry-Evans could be polarising.
But Slater said Cherry-Evans had shown at the Gold Coast camp that he could cement himself in the Maroons set-up.
"From what I have seen the last seven days he is really confident with what he can bring to the team; I think he can play in that No. 7 jersey for a long time," Slater said.
"And for a guy like Daly to come in with a bit of experience, he has jumped straight into a leadership role; he's been really impressive.
"For a guy who hasn't had an opportunity the last three years, he's taken control, he's wanted to understand the game plan and has gone above and beyond his duties to do that.
"I am looking forward to playing alongside him."
How times have changed.
Cherry-Evans was once so maligned in Queensland that he was booed at the Maroons' spiritual home Suncorp Stadium when running out for Manly after his infamous 2015 Gold Coast Titans backflip.
But Slater insisted the Sea Eagles skipper was misunderstood.
"I get along with Daly really well. He is a likeable guy," he said.
"He can have a joke around camp but when it is time to focus on football he is quite the leader amongst this group of guys."
Cherry-Evans played the last of his six Origins in game two 2015 - he remained on Queensland's bench for Game I of the 2014 series.
He has started two games at halfback for the Maroons previously, losing both games.
At 29, Cherry-Evans now gets one last chance to make the Maroons No. 7 jersey his own.
"He's lot more experienced now than the last time he got that opportunity," Slater said. "And when he got that opportunity he was off the bench and then got thrown in when someone got injured (Cooper Cronk in game two 2015).
"It's his chance to really perform and cement that No. 7 jersey.
"We know what he is capable of and I think the time is probably now to show that at this level."
Meanwhile, Queensland coach Kevin Walters says he opted for a front-row reshuffle for Wednesday night's match because his bench props demanded to be promoted to the starting line-up.
Dylan Napa is out of Origin III with a knee injury while Jarrod Wallace has been demoted to the bench after running for just 87m from the opening two games of the series.
Walters said Josh Papalii and Jai Arrow deserved to be given the chance to impact the game from the opening whistle.
"They've earnt the right to start the game. They've been more impressive," Walters said.
"Of course Dylan Napa is unavailable because of his knee injury so we had to find one starter and this is a good move from us because Jai Arrow and Josh Papalii have been two of our better performers.
"They've earnt the right to start. I'm looking forward to what they can do for Queensland in the opening 20-30 minutes."
Along with Wallace, Ben Hunt is another victim of the Blues wrapping up the series in just two matches. The starting halfback from games one and two has been benched and while spend time at hooker in game three while recalled playmaker Cherry-Evans will wear the No. 7 jersey.
"He (Hunt) will spend some time in the (number) nine (jersey), there's no doubt about that … just to liven up our middle a bit," Walters said.
"He can be very dangerous out of there, his kicking game will be a positive for us as well.