Cherry on top with Munster by his side as Maroons save face
Daly Cherry-Evans is determined to live up to the prediction of his retiring Maroons captain Billy Slater and put his stamp on the Queensland No.7 jersey for years to come.
After the 29-year-old Manly captain played the complete game at halfback in his first Origin since 2015 in the Maroons 18-12 win over NSW in game three, Slater said after he could have the halfback role long term.
That scenario is one Cherry-Evans intends to make a reality.
"They are really special comments [from Slater] and I certainly have aspirations to be here long term, but I had to make sure tonight was taken care of first," he said.
"I threw all my eggs into this basket and didn't look ahead but obviously I am aware of what is ahead for Queensland and the opportunity for the seven jersey.
"I am relieved for the state and the jersey because there was a lot of pressure externally about where this side was headed.
"It is crazy to think a series could be so one-sided, particularly with how well Queensland played in the first two games, so there is a lot of relief in the dressing room to show that we are capable of moving forward and giving it a good shake next year."
Cherry-Evans has heard the doubters questioning his ability play at this level but he knew he was up for the occasion.
"I came into this game very prepared. I had a lot of people in my corner and I've grown a lot since last time I was here," he said.
"I was very confident I was going to be able to do my job. I was one of 17 players who did a fantastic job in a Queensland jersey.
"I had clear instructions and it was easy for me to buy into it because it was exactly like I have been playing in club footy.
"It is a fantastic feeling to get back up here, firstly in the Origin arena and secondly to play in front of a home crowd who really got behind us. It was great to be a part of."
Cherry-Evans said his combination with five-eighth Cameron Munster worked a treat whether he was at first or second receiver.
"I said during the week that I thought we could gel well and the way I've played at Manly the last 18 months I've played a lot of second receiver so I knew we could link up on any part of the field," Cherry-Evans said.
Munster said his pairing with Cherry-Evans would only improve and added that he wanted him as a halves partner long term.
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"We had four sessions together before this and we trained down the house so I was excited and confident coming in to the game about playing with Chez," Munster said.
"He put in a complete performance and had his head screwed on from the get-go. That is a testament to his character because he had a lot of critics, but he answered them with his kicking, support play and awareness around the ruck.
"I just think we complemented each other perfectly. We've only played one game together and to win it the way we did gives us a lot of confidence about next year.
"If we can play good footy for our clubs and stamp our authority I hope we can get our positions back."
Munster said the Maroons would use the win as a springboard into 2019 just as they did back in 2014 after winning game three.
"We've got a lot to look forward to next year with GI, Michael Morgan and Kalyn Ponga to come back. Anthony Milford and Ash Taylor are great talents as well and gives us so much depth in our halves pairings," he said.
"That's why I am so excited about is ahead for Queensland. It is ridiculous when you think about it. It is scary. That makes me want to compete a little bit more and become a better player and more consistent."