Horror night to spur Cherry-Evans in Origin decider

Daly Cherry-Evans returns to ANZ Stadium in a Maroons jumper for the first time in five years, a night that he would love to forget.

Cherry-Evans will lead Queensland into the Origin decider, returning to Homebush in a Maroon jumper for the first time in 1848 days following his role in his side's heartbreaking series loss to NSW in 2014.

Desperate to prove himself in the Origin arena replacing an injured Cooper Cronk, Cherry-Evans carried a knee injury into Game Two and paid the ultimate price as the Blues reclaimed the shield with a 6-4 victory at ANZ.

Queensland's starting halfback that night, Cherry-Evans was pilloried for his performance and within 12 months he was on the outer, dumped by the Maroons after another loss to NSW at the MCG.

 

Daly Cherry-Evans had an unhappy night of it back in 2014.. Pic: Josh Woning.
Daly Cherry-Evans had an unhappy night of it back in 2014.. Pic: Josh Woning.

 

Now Cherry-Evans is back on the Blues' home turf, a rejuvenated figure as Queensland skipper, determined to atone for his Homebush horror show in the 10th and most important game of his Origin career.

"It wasn't my happiest night," Cherry-Evans said of his 2014 Origin game at ANZ Stadium.

"I've had a few games at Homebush, one when I was busted and the other was my second game for Queensland in an Origin decider (won 12-10 by the Maroons in 2013).

"It's completely different circumstances now to back then.

"I know for me I'm a different player these days, I'm a more senior player in this side.

"What happened to me in the past has been part of my Origin journey and it's motivating me to produce a big game for Queensland in the decider.

"I'm looking forward to it."

 

Daly Cherry-Evans arrives in Sydney where he will lead the Maroons in action on Wednesday night. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Daly Cherry-Evans arrives in Sydney where he will lead the Maroons in action on Wednesday night. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

 

Cherry-Evans battled years of speculation that he didn't fit into a Queensland team headlined by the powerful Big Four of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.

"I was overawed for sure," he said.

"I was trying to play it cool but it was easy to be daunted by the people around me.

"I tried to learn from guys like Cam Smith and when I came back into the Queensland team last year (for Origin III), only Billy Slater was left from those four guys and there was a different feel within the team.

"I've felt comfortable in this team having a bit more of a leadership role as captain.

"I've really thrived on that and there's no greater challenge for me as a player than the one that will be in front of us in the decider.

 

Daly Cherry-Evans will become an Origin legend if he can lead Queensland to victory. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Daly Cherry-Evans will become an Origin legend if he can lead Queensland to victory. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

 

"It's hard not to dream about the possibility of lifting the shield in NSW. It would be a massive moment for Queensland and proud moment for me, my teammates and my family."

Queensland coach Kevin Walters said Cherry-Evans has come a long way from the Origin rookie who struggled for impact in his last visit to ANZ Stadium.

"We're expecting Daly to lead the side like he can," he said. "He's a great player and a great leader as well and he's shown that throughout the series.

"(On Wednesday), he's going to be our captain and our leader and our boys will get behind him and follow him all the way."