Are the Maroons smart enough to realise Cherry-Evans is the future?

Tim Gore Columnist

125 Have your say

    If Kevin Walters and his fellow selectors truly care about the future of the Queensland State of Origin side, beyond the current campaign, they must now do what they should have been doing since 2015 and select Daly Cherry-Evans.

    It’s a total freaking no brainer.

    Why haven’t they? Well, they’ve been too busy winning with the best side that Origin has ever seen.

    They’ve won ten out of the last 11 series and the team – with a group of ageing champions at the helm – are even a chance to steal this one.

    However, it is the responsibility of the coach, selectors and the side’s leadership to not just win the series at hand but also to ensure the squad is constantly refreshed by breaking in the next generation – the ones who will continue on when the old stars inevitably retire.

    And that is particularly the case when it comes to the key position players.

    Sometimes, like Darren Lockyer and Andrew Johns, players choose their time to depart and go out on top. Others bow out losers – like Paul Gallen, like Nate Myles.

    Johnathan Thurston has bowed out of State of Origin a winner with a busted shoulder. At the age of 34 he’s had a great run. A veteran of 37 State of Origin appearances, he sits only behind the co-aged Cam Smith as the most capped Origin player of all time.

    Johnathan Thurston of the Queensland Maroons (right) and teammate Corey Parker celebrate winning

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Thurston has only missed one Origin game since he debuted for the Maroons in 2005 – and that was Game 1 this year.

    But now he’s gone and Queensland have to figure out what to do without him.

    And fast.

    Thurston’s Origin career has spanned the most dominant period by either side in the series’ history. A large part of the reason for that is how many great players have converged at the one time, and then stayed together.

    Just look at this:

    Name Origin games Origin games 2006 -present All time QLD rank
    Cam Smith 41 34 #1
    Johnathan Thurston 37 34 #2
    Darren Lockyer 36 15 #3
    Petero Civoneceva 33 18 #6
    Nate Myles 32 32 #7
    Greg Inglis 30 30 #9
    Sam Thaiday 29 29 #10
    Darius Boyd 28 28 #11
    Steve Price 28 11 #11
    Billy Slater 28 23 #11
    Justin Hodges 24 21 #16
    Brent Tate 23 17 #19
    Matt Scott 22 22 #21
    Cooper Cronk 21 21 #25
    Corey Parker 19 16 #30
    Matt Gillett 17 17 #34
    368/595 (61.85%)

    That’s right, you read correctly. Just 16 players have taken 61.85 per cent of all of the Queensland Origin caps on offer since the beginning of 2006. 368 of the 595 possible spots have been taken by the above 16 players.

    Just to give you an idea of how remarkable that is, the 17 most capped New South Wales players of all time have played 364 games combined. That’s one more player for four fewer caps.

    It has been on the back of this settled side that the Maroon dynasty has been built. During that period the names of the players wearing the 1, 6, 7 and 9 jerseys have virtually been static. The change from Darren Lockyer to Cooper Cronk was seamless, with the Storm halfback serving a two-series apprenticeship on the Maroon bench before Lockyer’s retirement.

    However, even after seeing how successful that model was, they have not followed it with Cherry-Evans – in spite of the advancing years of both Cronk and Thurston.

    While those within the inner sanctum of the Maroons deny it black and blue, it seems to many that the Manly halfback has been exiled.


    Robbie Farah holds down Daly Cherry-Evans in Origin 2 (Photo: AAP)

    (Photo: AAP)

    Firstly, the majority of the blame for Queensland’s one series defeat in the last 11 – 2014 – seems to have been laid at the feet of Cherry-Evans. When Cronk was injured early in Game 1 of that series, Cherry-Evans had to step up from his utility role off the bench to playing No.7.

    The Maroons failed to adjust and they went down 12-4, and then also lost Game 2 by 6-4, losing their first series in nine years.

    Although the side still featured superstars Thurston, Smith, Hodges, Inglis and Slater – who at that point had a combined 118 State of Origin games between them – somehow the majority of the blame has seemingly been laid at the feet of Cherry-Evans, who had only played two games at that stage.

    That’s bizarro-world stuff. It’s like blaming a first-term parliamentarian for the failures of the cabinet.

    Secondly, it is a possibility that the established Queensland players don’t think he’s cool enough to be in their club. Writing in the Fairfax press, Andrew Webster said on the matter:

    “The belief that [The Queensland players] have a set against him is too strong… it’s true that he doesn’t snugly fit into a Maroons culture and set-up that has been in place for years.

    For that reason it wouldn’t surprise if Cherry-Evans – despite his form – was overlooked for the decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 12, although the word is he’s “back in the mix”.”

    There’s a huge problem with this. As we’ve seen above, that “Maroons culture and set up that has been in place for years” is owned by players who have now been dropped, retired or are just about to retire. The idea that a culture of cool could still block the very best playmaker Queensland has in the wings is outrageous – especially if that “culture and set up” claims to actually care about what happens to Queensland fortunes once they retire.

    They need to come to terms with the fact that their time as the kings of the schoolyard is nearing the end. Leaving their side in the best possible health should be their number one priority. They are merely caretakers of the jerseys, not their owners.

    Further, the success of Queensland in the future has to be a very high priority for Kevin Walters. He cannot possibly allow such schoolyard popularity issues to overwhelm his role and judgement.

    Thirdly, in 2015, Cherry-Evans backflipped on his deal with the Titans to stay with the Sea Eagles, which saw him become one of the most hated men in the game. However, then-CEO David Smith had inexplicably left that loophole open – DCE did nothing against the rules, and nothing other players had not done before him.

    Further, as it was a Queensland club, there was a suggestion in some quarters that he had somehow been disloyal to his state. I find that idea very odd, as I’m not sure the Broncos have ever been worried one bit about helping the Titans – or any other Gold Coast incarnation – be successful.

    I recently met Daly Cherry-Evans one-on-one and had a chat. As he plays for the Sea Eagles, I was sort of hoping to dislike him. I was sort of hoping that he would be a tosser.

    Imagine my disappointment when I discovered he is an extremely personable, articulate, polite and lovely guy.

    But he is. I just have to accept it. So should you.

    Haters are going to hate, but in reality there is no good reason to.

    Yet when Kevin Walters was first asked who he’d bring in to replace Thurston, Cherry-Evans was not included among the four names he brought up.

    Cherry-Evans’ superb showing against the Sharks last weekend all of a sudden has Walters backpedalling to say DCE is in contention.

    But he shouldn’t just be in contention, he should be a lay-down misere for the role. The stats clearly bear that out. Just look how he compares against Kevvie’s other contenders:

    Age NRL games Origin games Try assists Line break assists Trys Line breaks 40/20s
    Daly Cherry-Evans 28 160 6 13 12 2 2 2
    Michael Morgan 25 115 7 6 2 5 6 1
    Moses Mbye 23 71 0 4 4 1 3 0
    Corey Norman 26 136 0 4 2 3 3 2
    Cameron Munster 22 56 0 5 7 0 4 0

    Cherry-Evans this time will not be replacing the ultimate structure of Cronk, he’ll be replacing the creative, running flair of Thurston.

    While no one could ever replace the great JT, DCE has the credentials when it comes to putting teammates through holes and playing what he sees. He’s twice as good as the best of his opponents in that regard. Further, he has six games experience in the Origin arena.

    While his superior attacking stats are to be expected, it is his defence where DCE really adds unexpected value to the Queensland side.

    Tackles Missed tackles Missed tackle percentage
    Cooper Cronk 14 1.3 9.3%
    Daly Cherry-Evans 25 1.8 7.2%
    Michael Morgan 13 2.6 20%
    Moses Mbye 21 2.7 12.85%
    Corey Norman 16 1 6.25%
    Cameron Munster 18 2.2 12.2%

    Of all of the options for the No.6 jersey, Cherry-Evans is clearly the best tackler. He is used to being run at all day but, unlike the likes of James Maloney, DCE is no turnstile. Far from it. He is a great defender.

    In a game where lots believe the Maroons will have to really step up in defence if they are to be a chance, Cherry-Evans comes with great credentials. In his six Origin appearances, he has missed just five tackles.

    For the best part of a decade, the Queensland side has revelled in success. It weren’t broke so they didn’t fix it. They kept playing the winning combinations. And why not? They won. Lots.

    However, their ongoing regeneration of the side was allowed to lapse as a result. The bloodletting after the Origin 1 thrashing has seen the greenest Maroon side in a long time.

    They are now desperate to pull off a great escape to claim their 11th series in 12 years and they must do it without arguably the greatest player to have ever laced up a boot.

    Their unbelievable fortune is that they have a superb, long-term replacement – with Origin experience! – standing by. Now they’ve just got to be smart enough to select him.

    All of NSW should be hoping that they aren’t.

    Tim Gore
    Tim Gore

    Tim has been an NRL statistician for ABC Radio Grandstand since 1999, primarily as part of their Canberra coverage. Tim has loved rugby league since Sterlo was a kid with lots of hair but was cursed with having no personal sporting ability whatsoever. He couldn't take a hit in footy, was a third division soccer player making up numbers, plays off 41 in golf and is possibly the world's worst cricketer ever. He has always been good at arguing the point though and he has a great memory of what happened. Follow Tim on Twitter.

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    The Crowd Says (125)

    • June 29th 2017 @ 7:01am
      Peeeko said | June 29th 2017 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      I still can’t get over Kevvie mentioned Moses Mbye. Funniest or most disturbing comment of the year

      • June 29th 2017 @ 11:19am
        Agent11 said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:19am | ! Report

        surely Corey Norman and Ash Taylor are ahead of Mbye

        • June 29th 2017 @ 11:52am
          Alan said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          Mbye shouldn’t even be in the same postcode is his point.

        • Roar Guru

          June 29th 2017 @ 11:52am
          peeeko said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:52am | ! Report

          and chris sandow

      • June 29th 2017 @ 12:12pm
        John said | June 29th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

        Pretty sure Mbye was mentioned as a part of his mind games. Absolutely no other reason for it.

        • June 29th 2017 @ 1:45pm
          MonkeyMayes said | June 29th 2017 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

          It’s almost like some kind of perverse taunt from Kevvie.

      • June 29th 2017 @ 4:39pm
        Alex L said | June 29th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

        If the plan is to play Morgan at 5/8th, then he could do worse for a bench player than a guy who covers hooker (given Smith has been playing injured), centre, and would probably be a passable half with the organisation of Cronk there to offset the complete lack of it at the Bulldogs right now.

    • Roar Guru

      June 29th 2017 @ 7:26am
      Magnus M. Østergaard said | June 29th 2017 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Maroons will probably line up with:

      1. Slater
      2. Holmes
      3. Chambers
      4. Gagai/Munster
      5. Gagai/Oates
      6. Cherry-Evans/Morgan
      7. Cronk
      8. Napa
      9. Smith
      10. Wallace
      11. Cooper
      12. Gillett
      13. McGuire
      14. Morgan/Cherry-Evans
      15. Hess
      16. Papalii
      17. Glasby/Thaiday


      At the moment DCE is my preferred start as Morgan suits the utility role better, but DCE never looked out of place there either. Munster will be fine at centre and my preferred option as I dont want to move our best player from the first 2 games out of position which he would have to do if we accomodated Oates. Thaiday may come in from Glasby for a farewell game, but I am not so sure.

      • June 29th 2017 @ 10:15am
        KingCowboy said | June 29th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        VH i don’t like the DCE and Cronk halves pairing and I don’t like DCE on the bench either. Norman offers so much more as he can cover almost ever position on field besides prop.

        • Columnist

          June 29th 2017 @ 11:10am
          Tim Gore said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          Pretend I’m Marge the “lissen lady.”
          Your Gameboy is at the bottom of the ocean. you just have to accept it.
          Cronk is about to play his last game for QLD. He is the past. Who he pairs with for this last game may well help prepare the QLD side for years to come.
          The halves positions – which is what DCE will be – are not best filled by utility players. Rather, if you need a 5/8 or a half back it is best you choose someone who actually is one.
          Their utility value is miles down the list of priorities.
          Miles down.

          • June 29th 2017 @ 11:42am
            KingCowboy said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

            Timothy, I hear what you are saying but Cronk and DCE, IMO, just won’t work! If Cronk was out, 100% go with DCE but his style won’t work with Cronk. We need a good strong bull runner and Morgs, Munster and Norman offer that. My preference is Morgs or Munster at 5/8. Morgs has been there long enough to know all the calls and Munster is a storm player. I just can’t get my head around home people don’t see the benefit of these obvious pairings!

            • June 29th 2017 @ 2:11pm
              dragons2468 said | June 29th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

              Hey King, Dce works real well with Cronk as they have played together for Australia. DCE does not fit in with Thurston as they play the same sort of game. Thurston is not a good strong ballrunner but has Morgan at the cowboys as a strong ballrunner. DCE and Morgan would fit well together too.

              • Roar Guru

                June 29th 2017 @ 2:48pm
                Matt H said | June 29th 2017 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

                When DCE and Cronk played for Australia, we lost to NZ.

              • Columnist

                June 29th 2017 @ 4:01pm
                Tim Gore said | June 29th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

                We always lose to NZ…

              • June 29th 2017 @ 5:35pm
                The Spectator said | June 29th 2017 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

                Green and Dce, cronk and Dce, what’s the differ cause I’ve seen it posted a lot lately?

        • Roar Guru

          June 29th 2017 @ 2:23pm
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | June 29th 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

          DCE has great defense which is why he works off the bench for mine and can play a 3rd playmaker like a playmaking lock. Morgan normally plays off the bench like a normal lock with ballplaying skills. Morgan covers more postions than DCE and has really honed in a good spot for himself at the moment off the bench and I think he will serve us best in SOOIII there.

          DCE is a better play maker than Morgan and plays a style that is reasonably ad-lib which will complement Cronks style well. DCE also gives us 2 very good kicking options, something which we lacked in Game 1.

          On top of this a lot of the other halves alternatives for QLD are lacking in terms of kicking ability going forward and I would prefer to have DCE alongside them to take the pressure off.

          Simply put, Morgan is too valuable off the bench and DCE has a better overall game.

          • June 29th 2017 @ 10:45pm
            Rob said | June 29th 2017 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

            Morgan makes a lot handling errors and miss tackles to be playing in the middle. He also has a much lower work rate defensively than DCE and Munster. That is the reason why Kleemer run straight over him, knocking him senseless last year. He is a brilliant attacking weapon to have on the edge (centre).

    • June 29th 2017 @ 7:31am
      Rugby Realist said | June 29th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      To confirm, the stats table for assists etc are from 2017 NRL games?

      But i agree, i think DCE should be there.
      He has big game experience (two grand finals, MoM in the losing side) and i think his running style will work well with Cronk’s strutured play.

      But hey, maybe he isnt cool enough.

      • Columnist

        June 29th 2017 @ 8:10am
        Tim Gore said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Yep, 2017 stats

        • Roar Guru

          June 29th 2017 @ 2:19pm
          Michael Keeffe said | June 29th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

          I think there is a few things missing from your stats analysis. Michael Morgan and Anthony Milford (I know injured currently but will play a role next year) both have much better running games than DCE.

          Both Morgan and Milford make more line breaks and score more tries than DCE. They are both pretty good with try assist as well – Milford 8, Morgan 10 (not sure where you got 6 from?). Milford 4 and Morgan 3 also break a lot more tackles than DCE 1 per game as well.

          So DCE is in great form and is clearly a player that creates opportunities for others – a genuine ball playing half while Morgan and Milford are running halves who’s ball playing skills whilst short of DCE are still developing and clearly ahead of a lot of the other halves listed here.

          I think it will come down to which style of halves they are going for to firstly compliment Cronk in game 3 and then also as a pairing next year.

    • Roar Guru

      June 29th 2017 @ 7:33am
      The Barry said | June 29th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      I agree. I think he’s their best option by far. His form this year has been sublime.

      It’s funny at the time Qld lost game one of the 2014 series there was talk that DCE had trained as a utility and not a half – which I thought was strange – but seemed to absolve DCE. But ever since he’s shouldered the blame.

      It does seem like he’s on the outer with the playing group.

      I think he’d combine well with Cronk and I’d rather have him than the flashy but inconsistent Norman.

      For game three it also seems less disruptive to leave Morgan in his familiar bench utility role than to bring him in at 6 and mould someone into what’s become a fairly specialised role off the bench.

      I’ve said all along this is an intriguing series and this is another dimension.

    • June 29th 2017 @ 7:51am
      kk said | June 29th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      Thaiday for Glasby/ DCE for JT/ Munster for Boyd.

      Then, Queensland @$2.05 becomes a proposition.

      • Columnist

        June 29th 2017 @ 8:11am
        Tim Gore said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        Qld 1-12.

      • Roar Guru

        June 29th 2017 @ 8:14am
        PNG Broncos fan88 said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Spot on Mr Max, similar train of thought to you except Munster and would prefer Oates in and Gagai to the centres.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 29th 2017 @ 7:59am
      Don said | June 29th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      Forget his stats for this year.

      Right now it is as much about how he fits into the side culture and what the senior players see as being workable as it is about DCE’s form.

      With the changes in senior players next year, 2018 is the ideal time to reintroduce him.

      If JT, Smith, Cronk and Slater are all telling you they want someone else, then why would you go against them in the last game of the series and for some, the last SOO of their careers?

      • Columnist

        June 29th 2017 @ 8:09am
        Tim Gore said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        All NSW supporters are hoping this logic prevails.

        • June 29th 2017 @ 8:30am
          qwetzen said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          And haven’t NSW supporters done well at picking their own team over the last decade?

          But seriously, one does get tired of SOO season headlines screaming that; [WHOEVER] MUST PLAY! because whoever has just had a good club or two. Cliff Lyons used to tear up Brookie too, and how did he go at Origin?

          • Columnist

            June 29th 2017 @ 8:35am
            Tim Gore said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

            Cliffs was magical on his day.
            Who do you suggest should be the ongoing QLD halves?

            • Roar Rookie

              June 29th 2017 @ 8:41am
              Don said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

              Yet to be decided but expect a couple of years of DCE and Morgan in the starting mix before settling on Ash Taylor and Corey Norman starting consistently.

              • Roar Guru

                June 29th 2017 @ 9:06am
                Magnus M. Østergaard said | June 29th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

                Morgan is nearly a year younger than Norman.

              • June 29th 2017 @ 9:10am
                Gray-Hand said | June 29th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

                Not Any room for Milford in there?

              • June 29th 2017 @ 9:38am
                souvalis said | June 29th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

                Ash Taylor defensively,is the worst halfback in the NRL..possibly,only possibly..because he’s always injured..

              • Roar Rookie

                June 29th 2017 @ 11:53am
                Don said | June 29th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                Ease up!
                He’s better than Moses and Maloney.
                Whilst I like a stat, I’m not a believer in stats representing a full picture.
                Eg. A few experts have made a point in highlighting Gillette’s missed tackles this season without looking at whether he actually made an effective stop and fell off etc.
                He’s also lost an effective partner in Corey Parker.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 29th 2017 @ 8:38am
          Don said | June 29th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

          But sports is littered with examples of players consistently excelling in a comp but player and coach relationships keeping them out of representative sides. Or even just an incorrect opinion of a guy can be enough.

          The Aus cricket side is probably the benchmark…

          But once the senior players or coach driving the “exclusion” are broken up the player often gets another go.

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