State of Origin: Daly Cherry-Evans shows his real class for Queensland in series finale
Daly Cherry-Evans scored one try and set up another in Queensland’s 18-12 win over NSW. (AAP: Darren England)
The nasty rumours about Daly Cherry-Evans can finally be put to bed after Queensland coach Kevin Walters claimed the “real DCE” stood up to deny New South Wales a rare State of Origin series whitewash.
Walters confirmed the Maroons’ number seven jersey was Cherry-Evans’ to lose after inspiring Queensland’s 18-12 State of Origin III win in Brisbane in a fitting farewell for stand-in skipper Billy Slater.
It was a stunning return for Cherry-Evans, who had endured three years in the Origin wilderness amid speculation the polarising playmaker had fallen out with the Maroons.
But Walters reckons Cherry-Evans has just busted that myth.
“I think that will put to bed now all those myths and all the talking about what sort of person he is and secondly that he wasn’t welcome in the Queensland set-up,” he said.
“We saw the real DCE stand up.”
Cherry-Evans was ever present as Queensland denied NSW’s first series whitewash in 18 years.
It also ensured a happy send-off for veteran full-back Slater after his 31st and final Origin.
Cherry-Evans had a hand in winger Valentine Holmes’ second try in the 51st minute before diving over for what became the match-winning four pointer seven minutes later after a Cameron Munster bust.
The near sell-out crowd rose to their feet as Cherry-Evans celebrated his try.
It was in stark contrast to the Lang Park crowd that booed him running out for Manly after his infamous 2015 Gold Coast Titans backflip.
Then there were those Origin rumours.
But suddenly all has been forgiven for Cherry-Evans.
“He is a great position now and he would have to be doing not quite so well next year to lose it [number seven jersey] — it’s his and we are thrilled for him,” Walters said.
“He had to wait his time behind Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, and when he did get his opportunity last time [in 2015] I don’t think he was quite fit.”
[But] I could tell at the start of the week when I first sat down with him that he was going to put in a performance that, regardless of the result, he could hang his hat on.”
Maroons’ spine looking good for 2019
Queensland’s new-look spine appears to be taking shape with Cherry-Evans working seamlessly with Munster at pivot.
And bench utility Ben Hunt worked well in tandem with number nine Andrew McCullough.
Newcastle’s Kalyn Ponga is all but guaranteed Slater’s number one jersey next year when he returns from injury.
It was a redemption of sorts for Hunt, the man Cherry-Evans replaced at half-back, after impressing off the bench out of dummy half.
“He belongs in this arena. It was finding the right role for him and he showed how good he could be,” Walters said of Hunt.
Walters’ luck seemed to have worsened after skipper Cameron Smith made a shock representative retirement weeks before the series opener.
But now he believes the future is bright after their first win without their “Big Three” — retired greats Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
Slater was named captain for the first time in his final Origin, replacing Greg Inglis [broken thumb].
The last man standing from Queensland’s 2006 side that sparked their decade of dominance — Inglis — is set to return next year along with Ponga [hamstring], Matt Gillett [neck] and Michael Morgan [biceps].