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Opinion

Is Daly Cherry-Evans Queensland's version of Mitchell Pearce?

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Expert
15th June, 2021
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Leading into Game 2 of the State of Origin series, at Suncorp Stadium next Sunday night, I am confident changes will be made to both teams.

For the Blues, I’m expecting Angus Crichton to come back in. But who for?

The obvious answer may be Liam Martin, but my preference would be for the Rooster to replace Jack Wighton.

Wighton played few minutes last Wednesday night and even without the Daly M medallist, NSW have the talent in their backline to cover any injuries that might occur during the game, even in the halves.

But for Queensland, are wholesale changes needed?

Josh Papalii will play Game 2, with whispers Kalyn Ponga will too. Given how dominant the Blues centres of Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell were, does Queensland need to pick some specialist centres, rather than picking players out of position and hoping for the best?

Kurt Capewell

Kurt Capewell (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Unfortunately for the Maroons, their centre stocks are low. They may have choices, but none of the players available are of the ilk of Mitchell or Trbojevic. That lack of depth may give someone like Tom Opacic the opportunity to make his debut and, unfortunately, line up opposite one of the best centres in the game.

But are the problems deeper and more fundamental for Queensland?

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Daly Cherry-Evans and Dane Gagai are their two most experienced players, the former with 14 games and the latter 11. Compare that to Scott Prince, who only played five games, or Matt Bowen, who managed ten.

The problem is that neither player played like they had that much experience last week, and in the case of Cherry-Evans it caps off what has been a fairly unremarkable Origin career.

He is the captain of the team and their chief playmaker, yet in his interstate career he has only set up four tries.

In the Origin arena, he tends to play with trepidation and lacks confidence. On Wednesday night he took the wrong option several times, didn’t have the confidence to throw the cut-out pass when the option was there, and when Cameron Munster was struggling with his kicking game, Cherry-Evans failed to take the pressure off by taking over.

Daly Cherry-Evans

Daly Cherry-Evans (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Now don’t get me wrong, just because Cherry-Evans hasn’t stepped up at Origin level, it doesn’t mean I blame him solely for Queensland’s woes.

The best player in Paul Green’s side was Moeaki Fotuaika, while Harry Grant also tried hard but had some defensive lapses. The rest were average.

But as captain, halfback and one of the most experienced players, it’s only natural for Cherry-Evans to be in the spotlight. More was needed from him.

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Cherry-Evans is an exceptionally gifted halfback, particularly at club level. He demonstrated that on Friday night in Manly’s 50-18 thumping of the Cowboys, with three try assists, nine tackle-breaks and running over 130 metres.

I want to see him replicate this club form at Origin level. But I’m not sure whether he can.

In that vein, Cherry-Evans is a bit like Mitchell Pearce.

Mitchell Pearce in Origin colours

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Pearce has played 18 games for the Blues. He lost 13 games and won five, leaving him with a winning record of 28 per cent, yet NSW insisted on consistently picking him.

Both Pearce and Cherry-Evans are very good club halfbacks. But I wonder whether either player could successfully make the step up that Origin requires.

While Pearce is no longer in contention, it seems the Maroons will persist with Cherry-Evans.

My big question is, should the Blues have a dominant win in Game 2, will Cherry-Evans’ Australian jersey be under threat?

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Nathan Cleary is the in-form halfback and will no doubt be pushing to don the green and gold at the end of the year should the World Cup go ahead.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Daly Cherry-Evans recently spoke about his career in an article which you can read in full over on AthletesVoice.

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