Barrett backs Cherry-Evans for Origin
Manly Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett believes Daly Cherry-Evans is ready to return to the State of Origin arena, labelling his star halfback as one of the form halves of the competition.
Cherry-Evans will have an ideal opportunity to stake his claim for a Queensland Maroons jersey on Saturday night when the Sea Eagles take on the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in the second match of the NRL's double-header.
The 28-year-old will face-off against another Queensland contender in Bronco Anthony Milford who re-signed with Brisbane for another four years on Friday.
Both are vying for the spot left vacant by an injury to Johnathan Thurston, with the North Queensland Cowboys halfback in severe doubt to play in Game One of this year's Origin Series because of joint problems in his shoulder.
It means Queensland and Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk will most likely have a new halves partner come May 31st and Cherry-Evans's recent form has him right in the mix.
Cherry-Evans is equal top of the competition for try assists, tied on nine with St George Illawarra Dragons halfback Josh McCrone.
The Manly half also has six line-break assists and that puts him in the top echelon of the NRL.
But his last performance in a Queensland jersey was forgettable, struggling in Game 2 of the 2015 Origin Series at the MCG when he started in place of the injured Cronk.
The Maroons lost that match 26-18 and stand-in halfback Cherry-Evans was the target of criticism for failing to perform when his side needed it most.
Cronk returned for Game 3, with Cherry-Evans dropping out of the side completely.
In the process, North Queensland Cowboys half Michael Morgan officially overtook Cherry-Evans in the pecking order, remaining in Queensland's side ever since.
But almost two years on, Barrett said Cherry-Evans deserves a shot at redemption, backing his halfback to perform on the big stage.
"Daly is ready for Origin again," Barrett said.
"He's been one of the form halves of the competition and is leading the competition for try assists. He's in a really good space at the moment.
"Having Blake Green there has really helped him and so has having Tom Trbojevic fit.
"Daly has been playing well off the back of that but he's also worked extremely hard as well."
Those are thoughts echoed by Manly teammate and New South Wales State of Origin contender Jake Trbojevic.
The Sea Eagles lock believes Cherry-Evans's promotion to captain of the club in the off-season is what is behind his outstanding form.
Trbojevic is vice-captain of the Sea Eagles and works closely with Cherry-Evans, and therefore he provides a reliable character reference of his teammate.
"I think he's been really good. The captaincy has taken his game to another level," Trbojevic said.
"He's playing confident footy and I think that's when he plays his best footy. The way he's playing is really good.
"He's a great talker and a great leader.
"He's played for his country and he's played Origin so he's got a lot of experience behind him.
"He was always the natural captaincy choice to follow Jamie Lyon and he's done a great job."