DCE plans to make jersey No.7 his own
ON Wednesday night the real Daly Cherry-Evans will line up in the Queensland No.7 jersey.
Three years after he last turned out for the Maroons, Cherry-Evans will play his seventh Origin match - this time comfortable in his own skin as both a player and a person.
Last time he played for Queensland, Cherry-Evans was doing his best imitation of Cooper Cronk - and it wasn't a particularly good one.
This time the Manly half is playing the role of himself, and he couldn't be happier.
Cherry-Evans' Origin future rests on this game.
Michael Morgan and Ash Taylor are waiting in the wings and many believe one of the pair will be handed halfback duties for Origin I next year, with Cherry-Evans playing only a caretaker role in this final match of the series.
But the man himself has other ideas and hopes his performance at Suncorp Stadium can help him extend his representative career.
Missing Origin hurt.
Every time his name was not among those selected for Queensland it was a blow to Cherry-Evans, despite what he might have said publicly.
"Every game I had to watch, it never got easier," Cherry-Evans said.
"I've really missed playing Origin football, everything it's about, the hype, what it stands for, the occasion.
"I thought once the first two games had passed, the series was probably over for me.
"But rugby league's a fantastic game and it creates so many opportunities in so many different ways. For me it didn't matter if it was game one, two or three, and it didn't matter what year, it was just a matter of working hard to get back there at some stage.
"I'm just grateful to be back and excited about what's ahead."
Cherry-Evans has used his time in the wilderness wisely.
The 29-year-old returns not just a better player, but a more mature person. And knowing what is most important in his life has freed him to play the best football of his career.
"I'm certainly a lot more comfortable in my own skin," he said.
"I've been able to separate what's really important in life and while there's always an emotional side of getting stuff written about you, it's about how quickly you can break away from that and get back to reality and understand that you've got to work hard, you've got to continue to perform and you also have to make sure that you're being a good dad at home.
"So putting all that into perspective over the last couple of years has helped ... and that comes with growing up as well.
"I've definitely developed as a player and I've grown as a person, so I'd like to think I'm way more prepared than I was in previous years.
Cherry Evans admits he has not yet showed his best form in a Maroon jersey.
Pitched into the role of covering for an injured Cronk three years ago, he tried to be an imitation of the man he was replacing.
But this time, he is playing his own game and he couldn't be happier.
"I was trying to fill the shoes of one of Queensland's greatest halfbacks," he said.
"They were certainly big shoes to fill at the time and looking back, I was probably underprepared, to be honest, but I guess the most exciting thing about what's happening now is that I don't have that expectation on me to be someone else.
"I'm in here now to be myself. I've been chosen to be the halfback of the side for not just one game, and I'm looking forward to taking that opportunity and making it more permanent than just one game or just a fill-in spot."
It's something Maroons captain Billy Slater believes Cherry-Evans can achieve, after being struck by his demeanour in camp.
"I've been really impressed with Daly," Slater said.
"I think he can play in that No.7 jersey for a long time.
"He's a lot more experienced now than he was when he got that (last) opportunity ... and it's his chance to really perform and cement that jersey.
"He's really confident in what he can bring to the team and I'm looking forward to that.
"He's a tremendous player. We know what he's capable of and I think the time is now to show that at this level."