In-form playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans has been overlooked for selection in Game 3 of this year’s State of Origin series, with selectors instead opting to select Brisbane Broncos halfback Ben Hunt to replace Johnathan Thurston.
However, despite overlooking Cherry-Evans for the decider, Maroons coach Kevin Walters maintained the Manly star’s Origin career isn’t over, labelling rumours that he’s disliked within the Queensland camp as “hogwash”.
Hunt is one of two debutants in the Queensland team alongside Melbourne Storm utility Cameron Munster, who has taken the place of the injured Darius Boyd. The inclusion of the two rookies brings the number of Maroons debutants for 2017 up to eight, a rare occurance for what has been an incredibly stable side for the past decade.
The rest of the squad remains unchanged from the side that defeated New South Wales in Game 2 of the series, however selectors have not settled on a starting XIII, instead naming the team in alphabetical order.
What is confirmed is that Hunt will make his Origin debut from the bench, while one of Munster or Michael Morgan will start at five-eighth.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for Hunt, who was recently dropped by the Broncos to Queensland Cup side Ipswich. However, Walters said the Brisbane half brought more versatility to the Maroons team.
“Ben, we like what he can bring to the team,” Walters said.
“DCE obviously came up in a lot of the discussions but Ben will be coming off the bench for us.
“If DCE was playing, he had to be in the starting 13 … Ben can bring a bit more value off the bench in other roles we are going to designate towards him.
“We like what we see in Ben. He could possibly be the future of the Maroons as well.”
Cameron Smith (c)